Opening Sarawak’s rural air routes
TRANSPORT Minister Anthony Loke has agreed to the opening up of rural air routes in Sarawak to commercial airlines apart from current service provider, MASwings in a recent meeting with the Chief Minister.
This is great news for the people in Sarawak as it will make rural towns more accessible for potential tourism development and also reduce travel times between these places. Such a show of understanding from the Federal Government of the needs of Sarawak is much appreciated here as it will also affect the bottom line of MASwings, which until now has a monopoly of the routes.
As stated by the Minister, the government understands the difficulties faced by rural folks in Sarawak when it comes to transportation as the distances are huge and the connecting roads not always in good conditions. The opening up of the rural air routes (next year) will allow for healthy competition and hopefully lead to lower fares too.
However, the reality is that the load factor for these routes might not make it conducive for other commercial airlines to venture into. There is also no mention or guarantee that MASwings will continue to operate these rural routes should the competition prove uneconomical for them to do so.
Will that lead to the total withdrawal of air connectivity between rural towns and the main centres in Sarawak if these routes are found to be uneconomical to operate?
Given the scenario here, it is totally unrealistic to depend on air connectivity for the development of rural areas in Sarawak due mainly to the small population and lack of industries to sustain them.
Like in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak needs road connectivity to the rural areas to develop their potential and to boost investment.
Nevertheless, better air connectivity in Sarawak, be it rural routes or international ones, is always welcomed and appreciated by the people.