Sabah to have own airline by 2024
Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd chairman Kenny Chua says it will lease three aircraft by the end of this year.
PETALING JAYA: Sabah’s own airline is expected to take off by next year, says Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (SAASB) chairman Kenny Chua.
He expected to sign agreements to lease at least three aircraft, not limited to Airbus or Boeing, by the end of this year.
“Negotiations are going on in stages. Who knows, we may even launch earlier than Sarawak,” he said, referring to Sarawak’s acquisition of MasWings.
Chua said Sabah used to be too reliant on federal funding, but now it was on the same path as Sarawak, with foreign investments flowing into the state.
“We need our own airline and our own cargo terminal hub. We have the licensing, the aviation engineers, the pilots and our own airports. Nothing can hold us back any more,” he said.
He said three possible names had been suggested for the airline – Sabah Airlines, Air Borneo, and Borneo Airlines.
The decision on this has been left to SAASB’s board and Sabah chief minister Hajiji Noor, Daily Express reported.
Chua also said the new airline would follow a low-cost business model that can compete with existing operators. The lucrative Kuala Lumpur-Kota Kinabalu route is now served by Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, AirAsia, and MyAir.
“Sabahans, especially students and civil servants, will get discounted prices on KL-KK flights,” he said.
He also said SAASB is taking over the AirAsia Terminal 2 in Tanjung Aru to be repurposed into a cargo terminal.
“But there are land issues to be resolved before all cargo can be centralised there. It may take three months before construction can commence,” he said.
In May, Borneo Post quoted Kuamut assemblyman Masiung Banah as saying he would table a motion in the state assembly for Sabah to establish its own airline.
Former deputy transport minister Aziz Kaprawi welcomed the proposal, saying it could help boost Sabah’s tourism industry, especially in creating better connectivity with China and Taiwan.