Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kota Kinabalu makes business sense to Malaysia Airlines

Sabah is about equidistant from most major Asian and Australian cities. And the plane is often the only mode of transport for Sabahans within their Borneo island state, the size of Scotland, and to other Malaysian cities and towns.

Resource-rich Sabah is separated from the peninsula by 1,600km (1,000 miles) of the South China Sea. Every year, Malaysia Airlines flies about 2m passengers between the peninsula and Sabah and beyond, using Kota Kinabalu as a transit point. So, it makes business sense for MAS to make the state capital its eastern operational hub.

Sabah chief minister Musa Aman is happy that Kota Kinabalu will now have more direct air links with major Asian and Australian cities. “It is not just air links that excite us,” he said as he launched MAS eastern hub in Kota Kinabalu on November 15. It is the prospects of not just more tourists to Sabah, but more foreign investment as businessmen find it cheaper and convenient to fly to Kota Kinabalu to do business.

Sabah expects 2.36m tourists next year, slightly more than this year’s figure which earns it about 4 billion ringgit ($1.3 billion). It is targeting 4.5m tourists in 10 years.

By June direct flights to Asian and Australian cities are likely to increase to 121 from 112, with more flights from MAS. The national airline, foreign and budget airlines such as Malaysia's Air Asia, Hong Kong’s Dragon Air, Australia’s JetStar and Singapore's SilkAir fly to 12 Asian cities from Kota Kinabalu: Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Manila and Clark in the Philippines, Kaohsiung, Taipei, Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, Shenzhen and Singapore.

MAS now has three direct flights a week to Haneda in Tokyo, instead of Narita. In January it will have thrice weekly flights to Perth, twice weekly to Osaka and four times a week to Seoul. It plans daily flights to Hong Kong and Taipei and four flights a week to Kaohsiung in June.

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