In making this suggestion, Deputy Minister in the Premier’s Department Datuk Gerawat Gala said this is to allow more people to board the flights.
Currently, the number of passengers per flight to and from Bario, Ba Kelalan, Long Banga and Long Seridan is capped at a maximum of nine passengers, in a ruling which was enforced following the finding of the investigation by CAAM into an incident where a MASwings DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft skidded into the drain upon landing at Long Seridan.
On a related matter, he said every year, any additional flights requested by the community during peak festive seasons, school holidays and other occasions are charged at full cost which is about 400 per cent higher than the normal fare on scheduled flights.
“This has caused a lot of hardship for the rural communities in Bario, Ba Kelalan, Long Banga and Long Seridan in terms of competition for the limited seats and significant drop in tourist arrivals, and we look forward to Dato Alice to bring these issues up to Mavcom,” he told The Borneo Post.
He was asked on expectations of the rural population and tour operators served by STOLports following the appointment of Datuk Alice Jawan Empaling as a member of the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom).
Gerawat, who is Mulu assemblyman and from Bario, said Alice can help push for the cap on number of passengers per flight to be reviewed and address the need for more subsidised flights during peak seasons.
The deputy minister, who is in charge of Labour, Immigration and Project Monitoring, however, expressed his doubts over CAAM’s finding on the Long Seridan mishap over two years ago which led to instruction to RAS operator MASwings to impose a maximum nine passengers cap and reducing weight on board for flights to northern Sarawak rural airports.
“The incident in Long Seridan should not have happened if we were to look at the conclusion or finding of the CAAM report as there were only two passengers on board. The facts and findings of the report are not consistent and should therefore be reviewed by CAAM and Mavcom,” he said.
Gerawat also expressed disappointment that CAAM and the Ministry of Transport (MoT) were taking too long to implement the plan to extend these affected STOLports to accommodate more passengers.
Meanwhile, he had requested MASwings to mount additional flights to these affected destinations to make up for the reduced number of passengers per flight as an interim measure while waiting for Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) and MoT to extend the runways.
To cater for the spike in demand during peak seasons, he called on Mavcom, MoT and Ministry of Finance to allocate an agreed number of additional non-scheduled flights at the cost of scheduled flights.
“The utilisation of these additional flights (at fully subsidised cost) will be discussed and agreed between MASwings management and the community leaders,” he said.