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  • Wartawan Nabalu News

Sabah Air optimistic about Borneo aviation following PM's endorsement of boutique airline

19 April 2023

By Wartawan Nabalu News


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (SAASB) has expressed optimism about a greater aviation industry in Borneo, following Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's endorsement of Sarawak's request to establish a boutique airline.


SAASB chief executive officer (CEO) Rodney Linus said the green light for Sarawak's Hornbill Skyways to operate its own airline has raised hopes of a possible collaboration that would benefit both Sabah and Sarawak.


The two companies had previously discussed the possibility of providing services for the best interests of residents in both states, including the establishment of a boutique airline.


“On various occasions previously, SAASB and Hornbill Airways sat down together to discuss matters that concern our people including the setting up of our airline.


"Hopefully, at some point both parties will be able to collaborate in ways that would serve the best interest of travelers in Sabah and Sarawak. For us at this point, we’re delighted to learn that Sarawak has taken the lead," he said in a statement.


SAASB Chairman Kenny Chua backed Linus’ statement, saying that the Sabah government-linked company has a wealth of experience and technical capabilities to provide a wide range of services to air travelers and corporate clients.


Although it’s been SAASB's dream to establish Sabah’s airline, the company is also looking at the entire aviation ecosystem that would serve not just the state but Borneo in general.


The proposed boutique airline is aimed at stabilizing airfares in both Sabah and Sarawak. Like our neighbors in Sarawak, we in Sabah have faced the problem of high airfares as well. So, this is a solution that fits well with us in Borneo.


“After all, we are all part of the same island and skies," said him.


Sabah Air Aviation Sdn Bhd (SAASB) was formerly known as Penerbangan Sabah and is one of the oldest general aviation companies in Malaysia.


Chua noted that SAASB has a proven track record in terms of performance, with a long list of clientele that includes national oil giant PETRONAS.


The company has embarked on the state’s first fully-integrated cargo terminal (CTO), which is a step forward towards capitalizing on the regional aviation market, especially China, Japan, and South Korea.


The proposed terminal is a long-term venture between Sabah Air, which comes under the state Finance Ministry, and Pos Malaysia, the country’s largest logistics and postal company.


The terminal will be a technologically advanced hub to manage general and perishable cargo as well as ecommerce, once fully operational. The memorandum of intent between SAASB and Pos Malaysia was signed last year.


Chua said the terminal will boost the state’s economy in line with the development aspirations spelled out in the Sabah Maju Jaya roadmap.


“The CTO project is in the final stages. The only problem is with regards to land at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) Terminal 2 that we need to iron out with the Transport Ministry,” he said.


The airline industry in the region has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the introduction of the boutique airline in Sarawak may have a significant impact on the industry in Borneo.


It is anticipated that the two aviation companies, SAASB and Hornbill Skyways, will have opportunities to collaborate and strengthen the airline industry in Borneo.

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