S’wak boutique airline to take off within three years: Abang Jo

S’wak boutique airline to take off within three years: Abang Jo

Premier to make announcement on matter sometime next month

KUCHING – Sarawak’s boutique airline is expected to commence within the next three years following the federal government’s greenlight, said Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Openg. “Give me time. (It will be) less than three years,” he told the media during his Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house at Borneo Convention Centre Kuching here today.

He said he will be making an announcement regarding the airline sometime next month.

“They (the federal cabinet) have agreed in principle. Actually, I have done my homework. The business model will be different – I cannot reveal it because it is mine. “We hope this business model will allow us to run this airline, then we will cover the overhead (costs) because we are not profit driven,” he said.

To a question, Abang Johari said the choice of aircraft is now being considered, with Hornbill Skyways chairman Tan Sri Amar Abdul Aziz Husain heard saying that at least four aircraft will be needed to begin with.

“We are looking at mid-sized jet aircraft. The moment you have 60% load, then that is okay,” said the premier. Abang Johari also mentioned that the market is now out of control with airlines raising fares.

“So to stabilise the fares, you have to intervene in the market,” he said, adding that he had done his homework on the matter and would not have proceeded without calculating the risks. He pointed out that with experience gained through Hornbill Skyways, the new business model would allow Sarawak to have a boutique regional airline.

“We don’t focus on profit – if you can cover the overheads, that is good enough. After all, those who benefit are the tourism players, coffee shops, kek lapis operators, and so on.

“When you calculate the returns, it will be (for) the whole spectrum in the tourism industry,” he said. Abang Johari also did not commit an answer to whether the boutique airline’s fares will undercut other airlines.

“You have to remember that before I became a YB (elected representative), I was in the airline industry. So ‘sik dapat tipu-tipu’ (I cannot lie),” he said.

On the claims made by Bandar Kuching MP Dr Kelvin Yii that setting up the airline would have adverse effects on Sarawak’s economy, he said he questioned the DAP lawmaker’s logic.

“(It is the same with) Autonomous Rapid Transit. They (DAP) were sceptical. They were also sceptical with the digital economy (initiated by me) and on Sarawak Pay. But now you see (they have changed their tone). Let time tell,” he said.

Meanwhile, when asked about the boutique airline, state Tourism, Creative Industry, and Performing Arts Minister Datuk Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said it would be a new entity and not be branded using the existing brands Sarawak has such as Hornbill Skyways.

“The boutique airline will be a new entity, though we have yet to find any particular name for the boutique airline. Hornbill Skyways will continue to exist as an entity of its own and continue its usual services,” he said.

Karim also said he is expecting the process to take less than three years, as the state government is serious in setting it up.

“Sarawak is located on the island of Borneo, and we want more people to be able to travel to and from the state with much ease – what better way to assist them than by setting up an airline for them to do so? After all, air travel is the fastest way to travel,” he said.

– Borneo Post Online, April 22, 2023

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