This maximum passenger limit, which is causing much inconvenience to travellers using four STOLports ( short take-off and landing airports) in northern Sarawak should be urgently reviewed, said Dr Roland Dom Mattu.
Supporting the call by Deputy Minister in Premier Sarawak Department Datuk Gerawat Gala for a review, Dr Roland said the cap was a waste of government subsidy and a headache to the local community.
“Getting seats for my family to fly back to Bario, I had to be at Miri Airport by 5am to put our names on the waiting list,” he related his personal experience in trying to secure seats in one of the three daily flights in this route.
Dr Roland questioned the authorities for the capping policy, adding that senior pilots he had talked to during his many trips to Bario as saying they were all surprised with the decision as they were not even consulted.
It also raised the poser over the objectives of the federal government’s subsidy to improve air connectivity in the interior by MASwings in providing affordable fares and seats availability.
On Wednesday, Gerawat called on the Civil Aviation Authority Malaysia (CAAM) to review the limit on number of passengers for flights to and from STOLports in northern Sarawak to enable more people to travel.
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. This followed the finding of CAAM’s investigation into an incident whereby a MASwings DHC-6 Twin Otter aircraft skidded into the drain upon landing at Long Seridan over two years ago.
Dr Roland concurred with Gerawat in questioning this decision by aviation authorities as there were only two passengers on board during that incident.
Flights to rural areas are vital in serving the rural community as it is the only safe connectivity recognised by tourists from all over the world when visiting the highlands, and the passenger cap has resulted in multi-million losses in earning opportunity.Dr Roland believed that the current Twin Otter aircraft has a world-class safety record, and the newly appointed MAVCOM member from Sarawak, Datu Alice Jawan, should push for a review (by an independent body) of this decision.