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Kota Kinabalu-based Sabah Air Aviation (SAA)
is planning to set up a new airline to operate
domestic and regional flights. Network and
fleet plans for the new carrier have been
submitted to the company's board for approval.
According to SAA Chairman Yusof Kassim,
once the proposal is cleared by the board,
the company will seek approvals from the
Department of Civil Aviation and Ministry of
Transport (MoT) in Putrajaya, near Kuala Lumpur.
Yusof says SAA's move has become necessary
in the wake of Malaysia Airlines (MAS)
subsidiary FireFly ceasing its jet operations
while its parent suspended flights from Kota
Kinabalu to Osaka, Kaohsiung, Seoul, Haneda
State-owned SAA is in talks with lessors to
acquire aircraft and flight crews, and is looking
at hiring maintenance personnel.
The company has not revealed what types
of aircraft it is considering leasing. Industry
observers suggest that the most likely
candidates would be Boeing 737 or Airbus
A320 single-aisle jetliners.
Initially, SAA plans to operate routes within
the states of Sarawak and Sabah, and across
the so-called East Asean Growth Area (EAGA)
comprising Brunei, the southern Philippines
and the Indonesian provinces of Sulawesi, East,
West and North Kalimantan. At a later stage,
SAA plans to operate to rural areas in Sabah
using turboprop aircraft.
SAA, which is based in Kota Kinabalu,
currently operates 12 helicopters and a nine-
seat Beechcraft KingAir 200 offering charter
cargo and passenger services. The company
was set up in 1975.
Sabah state Minister for Tourism, Culture
and Environment Masidi Manjun says the
government has given SAA its full backing
to set up a new airline to boost its booming
"The Sabah government has written to MoT
for the Perth, Haneda, Seoul and Osaka routes
to be forfeited by MAS and given to SAA ,"
Masidi told Asian Aviation in Kota Kinabalu.
The routes were suspended by MAS as part
of a major restructuring exercise triggered by
Masidi says several meetings Sabah
government officials had with MAS to draw up
alternatives instead of suspending the flights
only drew blanks.
SAA officials declined to be drawn on whether
the company would take over the international
services suspended by MAS. -- William Dennis
AirAsia X drops European, Indian routes
Long-haul low-cost carrier (LCC) AirAsia X
will cease operating to Europe, dropping its
four-times weekly service to Paris on 30 March,
followed by its six-times weekly London flights
the following day.
Both flights use four-engine Airbus A340-300
jetliners. The airline's Delhi flights, which have
already been reduced from daily to four-times
weekly, will also be scrapped from 1 March.
Four weekly services to Mumbai were stopped
on 31 January.
The airline has been losing money on all four
routes. High jet-fuel prices and the weakening
demand for travel from Europe due to the
current, unstable economic situation, have put
pressure on the airline's bottom line. AirAsia X
is the only LCC operating the four routes and
is also said to be reviewing its Kuala Lumpur-
Industry observers say the carrier's decision to
drop Mumbai and Delhi comes as no surprise,
since the fares offered were close to those of
full-service Malaysia Airlines (MAS). In 2011,
the airline dropped its Kuala Lumpur-Chennai
and Penang-Chennai as it struggled to compete
with MAS and Indian Airlines, which have a firm
foothold on both routes.
AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman-
Rani says the changes to the network were
necessary to improve operating-cost efficiency
and consolidate operations to focus on markets
where the carrier can take a strong position.
The cut in long-haul routes is consistent
with the airline's plan to limit its services to
routes under ten hours' flying time from its
base in Kuala Lumpur, concentrating on its
core markets: Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan
and South Korea. According to Azran, AirAsia
X plans to introduce new routes in these
markets soon, increasing frequencies on existing
The carrier is understood to be planning to
launch daily services to Sydney from 1 April.
AirAsia X officials say the carrier is keen to add
Sydney to its network. It has been pushing to
obtain rights for the route since 2009.
Malaysian transport minister Kong Cho Ha
says only that the MoT has no objections to
AirAsia X or any other airline planning to add
AirAsia X's current Australian services operate
to Melbourne, Perth and Gold Coast.
In January last year, the carrier deferred
all three deliveries of new Airbus A330-300s
scheduled for that year, with deliveries set
to begin again in 2012. AirAsia X operates
11 A330s, with 17 more to come. It has also
ordered ten A350-900s for delivery starting in
2017. -- William Dennis
Sabah Air to set up
AirAsia X has ordered ten A350-900s
for delivery starting in 2017.
NEWS IN BRIEF
INDONESIA AIRASIA has taken delivery of
its 17th Airbus A320. The airline, which also
operates four Boeing 737-300 jetliners, will
phase out the older aircraft with the addition of
five more A320s in 2012. The low-cost carrier
plans to go ahead with an Initial Public Offering
later this year, hoping to raise US$150 million-
US$200 million to finance fleet expansion. Credit
Suisse and CIMB Securities Indonesia have been
appointed as joint lead underwriters for the IPO.
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