By George Francis
MIRI - MASWing, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), will today commence its rural air service (RAS) in Sarawak and Sabah, taking over from Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) for a revival of tour industry to the Borneo states' interior attractions.
In conjunction with this inauguration at Mulu Airport, MASWing will also officially unveil its logo to be witnessed by Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud.
It has been a year since August 2006 when MAS, under the government's domestic flight rationalisation programme, handed over the RAS to budget airline AirAsia, which then subcontracted them to the inexperienced FAX.
The exercise saw a drop in visitors, especially from the west or Europe, as the tourism sectors suffered serious setbacks due to the air connectivity and interlining problems.
Compounding the problems, the airline switch had resulted in about 80 per cent of rural air services bookings with MAS being cancelled.
This is because, unlike in Peninsula Malaysia, the remote settlements and tourist attractions in Sarawak's interior depended on air services. By not being able to secure seats to the rural destinations online, thus the tourists or agents omitted the routes; the most affected is to Sarawak's tourism crown jewel - Mulu National Park - world heritage site.
FAX's reduction in flight frequencies or cancellations of RAS routes in the interior had also disrupted the local commuters' convenience and lifestyles, and that strong criticisms by the industry and people as well as both states had changed the mind of FAX bosses to hand the RAS back to MAS.
MASWing managing director Dr Amin Khan, meanwhile, said the airline would operate more RAS flights weekly and go all out through its agents worldwide in promoting rural destinations in Sarawak and Sabah.
Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin