Airport passenger volume could reach 49m this year

To achieve the figure, bold steps must be taken to boost tourism and the aviation sector, Wee says

by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

THE Transport Ministry (MoT) is optimistic that airport passenger volume will grow up to 49 million in 2022 compared to the 11 million recorded last year, depending on the Covid-19 situation.

Its Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong said bold steps must be taken including vaccinated travel lanes and travel bubbles to more countries to boost tourism and the aviation sector.

In officiating SKS Airways Sdn Bhd’s inaugural flight to Pulau Pangkor yesterday, Wee said he did not see unhealthy competition in the market as the group serves underserved destinations that have many tourists.

“I believe SKS Airways will provide added convenience to domestic travellers and island hoppers. In view of the dynamic advantages of twin otter aircrafts, it will complement other airlines available in Malaysia — commuting air passengers to more destinations locally.

“MoT will continue to provide support and render facilitation to enable the air transport network for a post Covid-19 recovery,” he told reporters.

In 2019, the number of passenger movements at airports in Malaysia was recorded at 109.5 million before it dropped sharply to 35.5 million in 2020.

SKS Airways, Malaysia’s newest commercial airline, offers flights between Subang and Pulau Pangkor beginning today, Subang to Pulau Redang from Jan 31 and to Pulau Tioman from Subang and Johor Baru in the second quarter of 2022.

With the commencement of the three routes, there will be 12 scheduled flights per day at a full capacity of 228 passengers with all-in fares from RM160 one way.

Malaysia Airlines Bhd’s parent Malaysia Aviation Group Bhd recently expressed concern over the Malaysian Aviation Commission’s preliminary approvals for new airlines SKS Airways and MYAirline Sdn Bhd, considering a potential airline overcapacity for a nation of about 32 million people.

Responding to that, SKS Airways head commercial Nidzam Norwani said the group is not competing head-to-head with any airline but is actually complementing the existing airline carriers.

“Our routes to island destinations like Pulau Pangkor, Pulau Redang and Pulau Tioman are unserved and underserved,” he added.

SKS Airways begins operations with a Twin Otter aircraft, wellknown all over the world for its toughness and reliability with excellent short take-off and landing capabilities which enables it to land comfortably on short airstrips.

The 19-passenger turbo prop Twin Otter aircraft is highly manoeuvrable, versatile and one of the most flexible planes.

SKS Airways expects to appeal to IT-savvy Gen-Y and Gen-Z individuals and young families looking for a different experience for short weekend getaways at popular island destinations within Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Wee reiterated that the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang remains under the management and operational oversight of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB).

“However, many people view that the airport needs to be upgraded as every country has a city airport.

“It is up to MAHB how it wants to develop or work with which companies to redevelop the airport,” he said.

WCT Holdings Bhd in May last year had proposed to enter into a new concession with the government to operate the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport (often called the Subang Airport) in Selangor and turn it into a city airport.

MAHB MD Datuk Iskandar Mizal Mahmood confirmed that the group is planning to redevelop the airport.

“We are considering looking for a partner (to redevelop) because Subang Airport is among the strategic airports in our entire network,” he told reporters.