Senator Datuk Yong Wui Chung has urged the government to thoroughly consider AirAsia's proposal to move back to Terminal 2 (T2) of Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA).
Yong, who is also the Secretary General of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said AirAsia was confident of attracting up to five million passengers a year if the airline moved its operations back to T2.
The low-cost carrier also believed the move would attract more budget airlines to Sabah, he said.
Yong called on the government to study AirAsia's proposal carefully before making the final decision.
He opined that having all airline operations under one roof at Terminal 1 (T1) of KKIA would augur well for the tourism industry in Sabah.
"This is evident with the increase of international passengers of 27 per cent, from 1.6 million in 2014 and 2015 to 2.1 million in 2016.
"Apart from better facilities, T1 also offers wider connectivity and growth opportunities for airlines," he said when debating the motion of thanks on the royal address by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V in Dewan Negara.
He said the Terminal 1 had not been fully utilized and suggested the ministry to look into expanding it to cope with the expected increase in passenger volume to Sabah.
Meanwhile, Yong said there was limited land for expansion at T2, which resulted in traffic congestion and lack of parking space.
"Any development and refurbishment at T2 will be a difficult task."
Yong also took AirAsia to task for not utilizing the aerobridge facility and whether the service was charged to the flight ticket.
On another note, Yong said the State Government expected tourist arrivals to increase to nine million by 2022.
As such, he wished to know the measures taken by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (Motac) to promote Sabah as one of the main tourist destinations in Malaysia and the allocation budgeted for the purpose.
He also asked the ministry on the eco-tourism clusters which had been identified by the ministry for development and promotion.
Additionally, Yong has requested Motac to provide the statistics on international tourist arrivals to Sabah, particularly those from China, Taiwan and South Korea for the past five years and the reasons that drew them to the Land Below the Wind.
He wanted to know the assistance and incentives given to operators of tourist attractions in order for them to upgrade their facilities.
On the other hand, Yong lauded the Health Ministry's effort to reduce the number of smokers by increasing no-smoking zones. However, he stressed that enforcement is also important to ensure smokers refrained from smoking at no-smoking zones.
He also urged smokers to make sure they did not expose non-smokers, especially children and pregnant women, to second-hand smoke.