Airasia To Bring International Flights To Sandakan Tawau Next Year


AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes (seated, second from left) hopes Terminal 2 at the airport in Kota Kinabalu can be reopened for low-cost flights.KOTA KINABALU: AirAsia is planning to bring in international direct flights to Sandakan and Tawau in Sabah’s east coast early next year, the group’s CEO Tony Fernandes said
Fernandes was optimistic that both districts — known for their nature and wildlife attractions — will be able to draw tourists from Asean countries, China, Korea and Japan, among others
“It is something the transport minister and the Sabah chief minister had talked to me about
“We are ready right now. I think we can bring a lot of jobs and opportunities to Tawau and Sandakan
“We are looking at January or February next year. I want to launch it during the winter period when it is around minus two degrees Celsius in China and Korea. We can promote the wonderful beaches in Sabah,” he said
Fernandes was speaking to reporters after meeting Chief Minister Shafie Apdal at his office here today
In the meantime, he said the state capital was very much an integral part of AirAsia’s business plans, adding the low-cost carrier will start a direct flight to Seoul in August next year
He said with Indonesia moving its capital to East Kalimantan, the potential was even greater for Sabah to strengthen its position as a regional hub
Fernandes said he also spoke at length with Shafie about re-opening the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) low-cost Terminal 2 at Tanjung Aru here, which ceased operations in December 2015
“If we can get Terminal 2 up and going, we can grow our passengers to 15 million. Our estimate is to create 33,000 jobs and bring in RM150 billion to Sabah’s economy through these flights
“When I first started, we had two flights a day to KK — now we have eight million passengers. It is really unbelievable. We can do so much in KK if we can get Terminal 2 re-opened.”He said, if permitted, AirAsia can move out of KKIA and allow more flights like Qatar Airways or Emirates to come in to the main airport
”So you need to release the capacity at Terminal 1 to let it be a full-service terminal.”Fernandes acknowledged talk of a new airport being built in Kimanis near here but said it was still a long way off. Terminal 2 will be an interim plan to continue the growth of low-cost carrier service in Sabah
“It will take us six months to restart operations at Terminal 2.”He said Shafie was supportive of the move but the decision is up to Malaysia Airports Berhad Holdings (MAHB)
Fernandez said MAHB appeared to be more focused on its business in Kuala Lumpur
“There is so much that can be done for Sabah. Maybe it is time for regional governments to have more say in this,” Fernandes said
AirAsia now has 511 weekly flights to Sabah, including 86 international flights a week. - FMT

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