Posted on 22 Apr 2023
Source of News: The Borneo Post
KUCHING (April 22): Sarawak’s boutique airline is expected to commence within the next three years following the greenlight given by the federal government, said Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg.

“Give me time. (It will be) less than three years,” he told the media during his Hari Raya Aidilfitri open house at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) 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 because it is mine.

“We hope this business model will allow us to run this airline, then we cover the overhead (cost) because we are not profit-driven,” he said.

To a question, Abang Johari said they are now looking at which aircraft for this airline, with Hornbill Skyways chairman Tan Sri Datuk Amar Abdul Aziz Husain heard saying that at least four aircraft will be needed to start off.

“We are looking at mid jet aircraft. The moment you have 60 per cent load, then that is okay,” he said.

Abang Johari also mentioned that the market is now haywire with airline companies raising fares.

“So to stabilise the fare, you have to intervene in the market,” he said, adding that he has done his homework on this matter and stressed that he would not have proceeded if he had not done so and calculated the risks.

He pointed out that with experience gained through Hornbill Skyways, the new business model will allow Sarawak to have a boutique airline which can fly within the region.

“We don’t focus on profit — if you can cover the overhead, 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 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’ (cannot lie),” he said.

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

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

Meanwhile, when asked about the boutique airline, Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Dato 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.

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

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

The Borneo Post