The government needs to outline a comprehensive, thought-out strategy for air connectivity in East Malaysia to better serve the people travelling within Sabah and Sarawak, said an aviation expert.
Endau Analytics aviation analyst Shukor Yusof said East Malaysia has been facing poor roads and rail connections, especially in rural areas, and thus, air links would be the best way to serve people living in challenging terrain.
“This includes serving connectivity to Peninsular Malaysia and beyond,” he told Bernama.
Hence, he opined that it would be great for Malaysia Aviation Group (MAG) if it detached MASwings, the airline serving the rural areas in Sarawak and Sabah, for the airline to be able to focus entirely on being a commercially-driven carrier.
MAG owns and operates Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, and MASwings.
Shukor was commenting on the takeover discussion between the Sarawak government and Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns MASwings through MAG.
On Thursday (July 20), Transport Minister Anthony Loke said the Federal government would ensure the MASwings takeover process is smooth so that Sarawak’s vision of having its own airline could be quickly realised.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signing ceremony took place for the takeover of rural air services (RAS) by the Sarawak government from the Federal government.
Shukor said the agreement should also clarify the parties bearing the profit and loss for MASwings-Khazanah and if Sabah fits into the scheme.
He also hoped that the subsidy given to MASwings would benefit Malaysians living in Peninsular Malaysia while spurring the economy in both East and West Malaysia.
“Moreover, the airline business is capital intensive, and the demand and supply in the market should determine airfares,” he said.
According to the Transport Ministry, it would continue the subsidy for MASwings operations in Sabah and Sarawak, which amounted to RM210 million a year.
MASwings has carried a total of 2,407,954 passengers, many of them from the rural areas of Sabah and Sarawak, between 2019 and 2022.
Source : New Straits Times