By Ruben Sario
KOTA KINABALU: Low-budget carrier AirAsia is gearing to launch domestic flights within Sabah and Sarawak in the next six months while introducing new services in the country.
AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said the airline was eyeing services between Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau as well as Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Kuching.
“We will also be mounting flights between Johor Baru, Sandakan and Tawau from February,” he told reporters after the arrival of AirAsia’s Airbus A320 commercial flight from Kuala Lumpur here yesterday.
“We are looking at some routes that have not been offered before.”
Stressing that the airline did not want to duplicate services offered by Malaysia Airlines, Fernandes said officials of both airlines were in the final stage of discussions on arrangements for the domestic flights.
AirAsia will be operating up to six aircraft for its services within Sabah and Sarawak, he said, adding that the airline will also be developing Kota Kinabalu as one of its regional hubs from next March.
The development of the hub will enable AirAsia to mount more international flights to the state capital, particularly from China, he added.
Currently, the airline operates flights to Bangkok and Manila from Terminal 2 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) which Fernandes described as being tight on occasions with up to three aircraft parked there.
“But we now have more confidence in KKIA with the planned development of the low-cost carrier terminal as part of the airport expansion project,” he said.
On AirAsia’s current fleet of 30 Boeing 737 aircraft, he said these would be phased out and replaced with the A320 jets by 2007.
He said the Boeing 737 aircraft would be used for AirAsia’s operations in Thailand and Indonesia and they would be replaced by the A320 within seven years.
Asked about Singapore’s Silk Air which plans to expand its services here while AirAsia had been refused direct flights to the island republic, Fernandes said: “Of course I am irritated. We hope there will be equal competition.”
Source: The Star