KUCHING: MASwings will cease operations for six routes in Sabah and Sarawak by next year to make way for commercial airlines.
Among the routes affected are the Kota Kinabalu-Sandakan, Kota Kinabalu-Tawau, Kota Kinabalu-Miri, Kuching-Miri, Kuching-Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching-Sibu.
This was disclosed by Liow Tiong Lai, the Transport minister in his winding-up speech for Budget 2018 debate on Wednesday night.
The Star online quoted him saying that the move to cut off the six routes 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.
“The government is ready to consider applications by commercial airlines to operate RAS, subject to conditions,” the online portal reported.
“But if we open up RAS to commercial airlines, we cannot subsidise MASwings anymore,” Liow said to questions by Alice Lau (DAP-Lanang) and Julian Tan (DAP-Stampin) in Parliament.
AirAsia had applied to conduct rural air services in Sabah and Sarawak, but Liow said the routes applied for had little potential as viable commercial routes due to a low load factor, meaning there were fewer passengers.
For the time being, MASwings operates rural air services almost exclusively, with RM160mil annual subsidies to cover operational and aircraft costs.