KUCHING, Nov 30 — DAP’s Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii has today urged Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg to just scrap the idea of setting up the state’s own airline.
He said such a move may not be sustainable and economically feasible and will come at a huge economic cost to the state.
“The state government, instead, should look at working with existing private national and private airlines to improve connectivity, especially domestic routes within Sarawak by offering incentives and even subsidies,” he said in a statement when responding to Abang Johari’s statement made in Spaoh in Betong earlier today.
Yii said running an airline business is very tough, as well as highly regulated in terms of organisational structure, passenger safety regulations, speciality, and other aviation requirements.
“While there is definitely a need to improve connectivity around Borneo and even to penetrate hubs that are important for tourism such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Hong Kong, but there is a better and more feasible way for the state government to do that rather than to dip their fingers in the airline business,” he said.
He said the state government must reconsider that it would cost a lot of public funds to set up, let alone sustain the business model and maintain the assets.
He said the chief minister must understand that in principle, it should not be the business of the government to be in business, adding that its role is to provide a conducive environment and ecosystem for business to thrive rather than trying to start its own airlines.
He said the state government or even the federal government generally does not have a very good track record of being involved in business due to multiple reasons, especially in a highly challenging industry such as aviation which has been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as well.
“That is why I strongly urge Abang Johari to reconsider his priorities or maybe he should instead find ways to incentivise airline companies to reduce their ticket prices so that Sarawakians can come back to vote this coming election,” he said.
Yii said this is not the first time the chief minister has mentioned starting an airline company since 2019.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bebuling short take-off and landing airport (STOLport) in Spaoh, Betong, the chief minister had said plans are underway for Sarawak to establish its own boutique airline.
He said the boutique airline would be set up if Gabungan Parti Sarawak is given the mandate in next month’s state election.
“We will be able to penetrate to hubs that are important for tourism such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Bangkok and Hong Kong,” he said
He said he has calculated the cost and found a way to ensure that this will not be a financial burden, saying that he has the model under state-owned Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd.