KUCHING: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg’s proposal to set up an airline jointly operated by Sarawak and Sabah has received the thumbs-up.

The Sarawak Institute for Public Affairs (Sipa), a non-governmental organisation, said the proposal was a good one as it would make the state more accessible to tourists as well as for business.

“There is much potential for the venture as Sarawak certainly needs air transport to cover the vast area and bridge the various towns and cities over shorter periods of travelling,” the institute’s director, Philip Wong said in a statement here yesterday.

Judging from the number of international airlines companies operating in the state, Wong said there is a huge demand for a local airline to operate directly from the state capital.

“It is no secret that the Kuching-Kuala Lumpur route is always in demand for airlines serving this route with more than 10 flights daily.

“With the expansion of other towns, direct routes to the national capital is expected to increase as well as to Kota Kinabalu and other destinations, including Brunei and even to Kalimantan Indonesia.

“The chief minister’s proposal is a viable option for the state to reach out to the world and make Sarawak easily accessible to everyone,” he said.

However, Wong cautioned that the proposed airline should be properly and professionally managed.

“It must be professionally handled with no invisible hands involved so that it can compete freely. The seed money must be from the state but once the management team is in place all government personnel must exit for the team to run it properly.

“With the expanding economy expected from the Pan Borneo Highway and other regional developments planned for the state, Sarawak is poised to open up many new areas for business and also for tourism,” Wong said.

He believed a dedicated airline can provide the best connectivity for tourists from all over the world to Sarawak which will boost the state’s economy and also profile internationally.

“It is indeed a timely call for the state government to propose the setting up of a joint airline by Sarawak and Sabah to serve the state’s needs and to be able to dictate the directions and goals for the airline,” he said.