Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Concern over air services in Sarawak


MIRI: Rural folk are concerned over how the air services for them in Sarawak will be managed after Aug 1.

On that date, Malaysia Airlines hands over the rural air service sectors to Air Asia, which has subcontracted these sectors to a new airline - Fly Asian Xpress (FAX).

On Saturday, Sarawak Assistant Minister for Infrastructure Development and Communications, Lee Kim Shin, met with groups of concerned people, including those from the tourism sectors, to discuss the issues that are worrying the people.

“At the moment, bookings for FAX seats can only be made via on-line ticketing system because FAX has yet to set up any offices in the rural sectors.

“How can rural folks book tickets on-line? They live in remote towns and villages that do not have Internet facilities.

“Many of these areas do not even have electricity. These folks are very concerned with the connectivity of rural sector flights because they cannot obtain information about these flights now since MAS is no longer accepting bookings for these sectors (for flights after Aug 1).

“Rural folks are also concerned that FAX fares would be higher than that charged by MAS. They have no avenue to obtain the information they need in their hometowns,” said Lee, who is also Sarawak Tourism Board director for northern Sarawak.

MAS will hand over 99 non-trunk routes to AirAsia as part of the airline route rationalisation plan after August.

Lee said MAS's recent announcement that it would do away with family discounted fares and special fares for pensioners have also worried many travellers.

“MAS, AirAsia and FAX need to resolve these worries now. FAX must open up more offices and information centres now. There are many people who have to plan their travel arrangements in advance and all these uncertainties are affecting them,” he said.

Tour agents are also worried that tourist arrivals would be affected by these uncertainties, he added.

Lee said the state government has appealed to MAS to continue operating some of the sectors, especially between northern Sarawak and Sabah, even after Aug 1, so as not to disrupt the present flight connections.

Source: The Star

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