KUALA LUMPUR (Oct 27): Sarawak is exploring the potential involvement of the Sabah state government in its move to acquire MASwings Sdn Bhd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd (MAG).
Sarawak Premier Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg said that the plans came after the state government inked a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd — the only state-owned airline in Sarawak — and Malaysia Aviation Group to acquire the shares in MASwings.
“As part of the MOU, a joint working committee would also explore the possibility of including [the] Sabah state government in equity acquisition in the ensuing process of negotiation as guided by the federal government in the interest of rural air services in Sabah,” Abang Johari said in his speech during the signing ceremony on Friday.
On June 15, Abang Johari said Sarawak had agreed to a deal in principle to take over MASwings, subject to the state carrying out due diligence on the turboprop operator.
The announcement was in line with the Sarawak government’s plan to set up its own boutique airline, which was approved in principle by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in April this year.
Currently, Sarawak’s regional and international air connectivity is serviced by Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, AirAsia, Scoot and Batik Airlines — which is still “insufficient to meet the demands of the region”, said Abang Johari.
“As we have experienced so far, we cannot depend on private airlines to meet the mobility demands of our people across Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah or even Singapore, as they are operating on a profit and loss basis. The fare charges are sometimes beyond the affordability of our people, especially during the festive seasons," he explained.
The Sarawak premier said that the establishment of the state-owned airline aims to expand Sarawak's air connectivity and regulate the aviation market as well as ensure fair competition within Sarawak and the region.
"While it may not be profit-oriented, our ambition is clear, that is to serve our people, the rakyat better. Through our own airline, we can tailor our own business model that prioritises Sarawak’s needs. This includes planning routes that cater to meet the demands of our businesses, industries and our people," he said.
Abang Johari added by having the state-owned airline is crucial for the Sarawak tourism industry as it has the potential to contribute significantly to the state’s economic growth.