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KOTA KINABALU, Aug 16 — Tourism, Arts and Culture minister Mohamaddin Ketapi has thrown support behind AirAsia in their bid to move back to Kota Kinabalu International Airport’s Terminal 2 as a dedicated low-cost terminal.
The new Sabahan minister said there were several good reasons to move the budget airlines' operations back to its old base in Tanjung Aru, about 6 kilometres away.
“Of course we support their move but they have to talk to Malaysia Airports Berhad. We are supporting them, they are our friends.
“It is probably a bit cheaper and more convenient,” he said when speaking to reporters after a newly launched Kota Kinabalu ― Bangkok route here today.
AirAsia chief executive officer Riad Asmat said that they were still in discussions with the state government and MAB but was confident of reaching a favourable outcome.
“It is for the betterment of the state. By year end we will have nine aircraft here and there is only capacity for 17 at the moment, and this is to be shared with other airlines. Our growth is very limited here,” he said.
AirAsia has recently proposed to move back to Terminal 2 of the KKIA after being forced out three years ago to the main Terminal 1 building in December 2015, while it waited for plans on a renovation or relocation of KKIA.
They claimed the airlines saw flat growth over the last two years.
However, the state government has yet to make its stand known while MAB has insisted that all airlines should operate from Terminal 1.
Meanwhile, the State’s tourism industry is hoping that its latest route here will be able to offer more connectivity for travellers to come to Sabah, particularly as Bangkok was an important tourism hub for South East Asia.
“We are also looking at attracting the expat community working for international organisations over there,” said State Tourism, Culture and Environment minister Christina Liew.
Sabah currently sees about 2,000 Thai travellers yearly, but insists that the route had great potential for growth.
AirAsia had scrapped this route over a decade ago after only a few months of operations but now operates to nine international destinations from here.