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Thursday, 29 June 2017

(The Star) Traders want a jetliner on Sibu-Kota Kinabalu route

SIBU: A survey conducted by the Sibu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) shows that the people here, including business owners, want a jetliner to serve the Sibu-Kota Kinabalu sector.

SCCCI president Dr Hii Sui Cheng told reporters on Friday that the organisation submitted a request to the Chief Minister for a larger plane following the survey.

Dr Hii said this sector, which is categorised as rural air service, had been served by MASwings using ATR propeller plane for almost 10 years.

“This has greatly hindered the growth of trade between these two important commercial centres and tourism industries, because of a number of factors including poor quality of service, relatively expensive air tickets and limited seats,” he said.

He added that their request was made at the right time as the new MASwings agreement with the Tranport Ministry was yet to be finalised before coming into effect on Jan 1, 2018.

Dr Hii said if MASwings has no plan to use a jetliner for this route, which is about an hour’s flying distance, the government should either negotiate for an alternate airline to do so or ask for the exclusion of this sector (Sibu-KK) from the new agreement.

“While some quarters might argue that there may not be enough passenger load to justify service by the larger jet aircraft, experience has shown that if given the route to AirAsia, a low cost carrier, the passenger numbers will easily grow to outstrip the pessimistic projection.

“Doubters need only to look at the Sibu to KL sector where flight frequencies have increased from barely two to more than four daily flights today, even during the off-peak period,” he added.

As an example, he said for the Sibu-Kuching sector, while MAB had to cancel its jet air service because of insufficient passengers, AirAsia now had three direct flights linking the same destinations with good passenger load.

Dr Hii said a declassification of the Sibu-KK sector as a rural one should be made considering that the two places are already big commercial centres.

On the survey conducted in April this year, he said 17.95% of respondents graded the quality of MASwings service as “very bad” and 48.72% as “bad” while 33.33% rated it as “good” with no one classifying it as “very good”.

The survey also showed that a significant percentage of travellers even chose a “zigzag route” by flying AirAsia from Sibu to Kuching first before catching another flight to Kota Kinabalu.

A similar approach was also used for passengers originating from Kota Kinabalu.

When contacted yesterday, Dr Hii said only the Transport Ministry could decide on the request made.

“I have met up with MASwings chief executive officer Aminuddin Zakari and he told us that he has no authority over the matter.

“It is not up to him to decide on whether MASwings can use a jetliner for the sector.

“The authority lies with the Transport Ministry but the state government has a say,” he added.

Dr Hii also said he has sent a letter of request to Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai about the matter.