KUCHING, Aug 29 — Sarawak will study any suggestions to join forces with Sabah for a Borneo airline if it is for the good of the two states, said state Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Seri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah today.
“Well, if there is a request or attempt to do something like this and it is good for the two states, why not?” he said during a press conference after launching the Sarawak-Malaysia My Second Home (S-MM2H) management online application system here.
“Because, at the end of the day, what is important is the consumers, and that the people of Sarawak and Sabah are able to benefit from this airline,” he said.
Karim was asked to respond to suggestions that Sarawak and Sabah should form a Borneo airline instead of each state setting up its own separate airline.
On Sabah’s plan to have its own airline, as announced by Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (SAASB) chairman Kenny Chua, Karim said he is happy for Sabah.
“The more the merrier because the airline will definitely be looking into Sarawak as one of the destinations,” he said, adding that more airlines flying to Sarawak meant healthy competition among carriers.
“When there is competition, it will be good for the consumers. That is the main reason why Sarawak wants to have its own airline,” he said.
Sabah-based newspaper Daily Express quoted Chua as saying that Sabah could expect to have its own airline up and running by next year if everything goes according to plan.
He said the lease for three aircraft — not limited to Airbus or Boeing — would be signed before the end of the year.
According to Chua, Sabah might even launch earlier than Sarawak, in reference to the latter’s current negotiations to acquire MasWings from Malaysia Aviation Group.
Karim stressed that Sarawak’s move to set up its own airline is due to the demand for seats from Sarawakians residing and working in peninsular Malaysia who wish to return home for Hari Raya, Gawai Dayak and Chinese New Year.
He said this had led to higher airfares being imposed by the airline companies.
“When we have our own airline, we will set the ceiling, and once you set the ceiling, the others will also have to follow suit,” he said, stressing that Sarawak is not looking for profit from its airline.