For illustration only. Photo:

KUCHING: Sarawak is mulling the right approach to set up its own homegrown airline to improve connectivity with strategic locations such as Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Australia and bring tourists to the state.

“Maybe this airline will not be 100 percent government-owned but together with the private sector because airlines have to be private sector driven,” said Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said this in response to a question from the Kuching Chinese General Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCGCCI) during the Chief Minister’s Webinar entitled ‘Sarawak 2021 Budget: Towards A High-Income Society In 2030’ hosted by the Sarawak Business Federation on Monday (Nov 23).

He said earlier, there was a proposal for the state to purchase shares in an airline, but he had noticed there were certain liabilities.

“If you were to purchase shares and still have a minority block, I think it will not be of much benefit.  You might as well set up your own airline company,” he said.

Abang Johari said there was also a proposal to set up a low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in Sarawak, but there had been no conclusion in this deliberation.

“But we are definitely looking into a bigger airport which can accommodate an increase in flights and potential increase of tourist arrivals to Sarawak after this pandemic,” he said.

The chief minister disclosed that the plan was being deliberated on by those specialising in airport development.

He said based on current statistics, Kuching Airport was congested and would not be able to cope with the expected increase in visitors and flights in the next two years.

“In other words, we have to plan now. It is still premature for me to reveal what we have in mind at the moment,” he said.

Also present during the webinar were Sarawak Business Federation president Datuk Abang Abdul Karim Tun Openg and deputy president Datuk Philip Ting, who moderated the session.