Abang Johari speaks at the MoU signing ceremony here today. – Photo by Chimon Upon

KUCHING (Oct 27): Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg has assured that the state-owned airline will prioritise public service over profit.

Speaking during the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signing ceremony for the acquisition of shares in MASwings by Hornbill Skyways Sdn Bhd at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here today, he outlined his vision for the airline’s regional focus and its role in enhancing transportation infrastructure for Sabah and Sarawak.

“I would like to emphasise here that this airline will not be a big airline. It would be a boutique airline catering for the regional routes, meaning six to seven hours range.

“We don’t want to go further than that and we leave it to Malaysia Airline to do their job,” he said.

Abang Johari said that he had also laid two crucial conditions for taking over MASwings, the current regional airline.

“I told the Prime Minister (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) that I need only two conditions to take over MASwings. One – cannot fly only in Borneo; it has to be regional. Two – we cannot give too much emphasis on profit.

“Of course, (Transport Minister) Anthony Loke said Sarawak got deep pockets. I’m not saying that we got deep pockets, but we must give them reasonable fair, not to make a profit as long as it can cover the cost, that’s all,” he added.

According to Abang Johari, it is the government’s responsibility to provide basic infrastructure, such as air travel, to benefit the people especially in rural areas.

He highlighted that it is crucial to consider the intangible benefits of the transportation system, just as with any other infrastructure project.

“I don’t expect to make a profit out of our ART. You know, we have our ART, people say can you make money? It’s not about money. You build a road; did you ask how much the road will give you in return?

“You never ask, but it is part of infrastructure that will generate economic growth and people will get benefit out of the economic activities, including the rural people,” said.

He also extended an invitation to Sabah to join this initiative, with the hope that together, they can provide essential services for the Borneo states and work towards the betterment of all Malaysians.

“With that, hopefully, this airline will give us a good positive response,” he said.