Sunday, October 11, 2015

Wingless over Borneo

JUST when there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel on the issue of direct flights from foreign destinations to Kuching in the form of the state’s negotiation with MAS to take over its short-haul subsidiary MASwings, someone threw a spanner into the works.

The new management of MAS under the guise of Malaysian Airline Berhad (MAB) now seems to indicate that it is mulling over keeping MASwings to cater for its short-haul sector.

This unexpected turn of event was revealed by Sarawak Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg at a press conference last Thursday when he announced that talks on the takeover had slowed down.

That carefully worded announcement was a euphemism which played down the fact that the takeover bid of MASwings by the Sarawak and Sabah government might never take off.

The term short-haul is somewhat misleading as the sector covers routes within seven hours flight time to destinations like Tokyo, Bangkok, Australia and Jakarta. And so the issue of direct flights to the state looks set to simmer on.

Former state assemblyman Richard Wong revealed in a conversation years ago that their late father Datuk Amar James Wong had been accused by West Malaysian folks of being a traitor when he was the state Minister of Tourism and Environment for constantly pushing for more flights into Kuching.

Dr Mahathir may have said in public that we should “prosper thy neighbour” but it was not the case when prospering national tourism.

Flights were arranged to come through Kuala Lumpur. In those early times, MAS would not be allowed to fly say Kuching-Hong Kong or Kuching-Jakarata. It must be through KL.

Singapore Airlines was grudgingly given flights into Kuching but with many restrictions such as three flights a week, meaning that turn-around time for incoming travellers to Kuching was perhaps three nights, thus effectively cancelling out  business day trippers.

Further, there had to be a minimum percentage of Singapore passengers in each flight. So, if you want it to fail, it will fail. Many a valiant airlines had tried and failed in their flights into Kuching, Dragonair and Jetstar, to name but two.

AirAsia had tried Kuching-Macau, Kuching-Jakarta and Kuching-Bali. Malaysia Airlines had tried Kuching-Hong Kong. So there had been no lack of airlines which took up the challenge.

Furthermore, federal ministries have their own objectives. Promotion of Sarawak, as well as Sabah could not bear the name Borneo. It must be stated as “Sarawak, Malaysia,” not “Sarawak Borneo.”

In pre-Petronas Twin Towers days, Borneo was better known in the world map than Malaysia. So we knowingly shot ourselves in the foot when Federal Tourism Ministry promoted “Sarawak in Malaysia.”

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Wingless over Borneo