KOTA KINABALU: The announcement on MASwings' routes cut is being assessed by the Sabah government on its impact on the people.
With the trimming of the routes, there is also a possibility of fare hike if they are taken over by other airlines.
Yesterday State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said the Sabah Tourism Board had been tasked to study the impact of the reduction of the regional communal airline services within the state and Sarawak.
"The question is whether other airlines will enjoy the rural routes subsidy that MASwings has?â€ he asked. "If the answer is no, then will the fares be more expensive for passengers?â€ Masidi said.
"And without the subsidies, will there be enough passenger load on these sectors to enable the airlines to maintain or lower their fares as well as improving flight frequencies" he added.
In the past, Masidi had asked MASwings to consider renewing its current fleet or add more ATR aircraft to improve its services.
"The government has been very satisfied with their service in Sabah but they need to improve on some points.
"I think they need to have more aircraft because once in a while we hear about flights being cancelled. I was made to understand the reason is when one aircraft breaks down, it is difficult for another relief aircraft to take over the flight because they only have around 10 aircraft here to serve Sabah and Sarawak" he had said.
Meanwhile, Sandakan Tourism Association president Johnny Lim said the ceasing of Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan sector by MASwing would be "damagingâ€ for the industry in the east coast district.
He said MASwings services were needed to maintain the frequency of flight services for the sector.
Lim said while MAS and Air Asia was operating the Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan sector as well, these were however not frequent enough to meet the demand.
He said it was still uncertain whether both airlines were willing to increase the frequency for the sector once MASwings stopped its flights there.
Last week, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai told Parliament that MASwings would be stopping its Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Miri, Kuching-Miri, Kuching-Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching-Sibu from next year.
He said the move was decided after a study by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) was done on rural air services (RAS).
It found that the six existing routes, jointly operated by MASwings with commercial airlines such as Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, had a high load factor of up to 86%, making it more profitable for commercial airlines.
He said the Government is ready to consider applications by commercial airlines to operate the Rural Air Services (RAS) in both states, subject to conditions.
Liow said it would, however, mean the Government would not be able to subsidise MASwings anymore if it were to open the RAS to commercial airlines.