By SIM LEOI LEOI
PUTRAJAYA: Low-cost carrier Firefly has received the green light to operate from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang but will only be permitted to fly domestic routes currently not serviced by AirAsia or Malaysia Airlines.
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said that in a decision by the Cabinet “a few weeks ago”, Firefly, which currently flies out of the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas, could move to Subang anytime.
“For example, Firefly can operate flights on turbo-prop aircraft from Subang to Ipoh or Malacca, which are at present not serviced by AirAsia or MAS. It’s up to Firefly to decide.
“The ministry will not force any destination on Firefly as this is entirely a business consideration. However, any proposal from Firefly will have to be approved by the ministry,” he told reporters after presenting excellence service awards to staff members at the ministry here yesterday.
Model workers: Chan (left) checking out Wan Kamal Wan Embong’s excellence service award while Mohd Ghazali Aman and Siti Ishah Shamsudin (right) look at theirs.
Firefly, which is a subsidiary of MAS, currently flies from Penang to Langkawi, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu and Kuantan as well as Phuket and Koh Samui in Thailand. It operates two 50-seater Fokker aircraft.
Chan had said earlier that the ministry was considering allowing Firefly to operate out of Subang in response to a call by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor that the low-cost carrier be allowed to do so as one way of spurring domestic tourism.
“Firefly has also put in a proposal to operate out of the Senai and the Kota Kinabalu airports, which we are still looking into,” he said.
Firefly’s managing director Eddy Leong said: “Firefly is delighted with the Government’s approval for it to operate from Subang. Although the current restrictions mean that it can only fly to Ipoh, Maalcca and Kerteh from Subang, Firefly will continue to engage the Government for approvals to operate more domestic and regional routes that will benefit the community it serves.
“MAS is confident that Firefly will obtain such approvals in view of its continuous support of the Government’s efforts to improve air links, especially in East Malaysia where MAS is now in the process of taking over the Rural Air Service operations from FAX despite the poor conditions of the aircraft and operations.
“Operating from Penang, Subang and Johor Baru will complete Firefly’s objective of being Malaysia’s first community airline providing safe, affordable and comfortable air links for the communities it serves.”
Group chief executive officer of AirAsia Datuk Tony Fernandes said: “We have no objections on Firefly flying from Subang. These will be propeller-based aircraft only and will service destinations not served by AirAsia or Malaysia Airlines. This is good for communities that are not served by the national premium airline and the national low cost airline.
“We support the move by the Government. It is good now that there is a national turboprop operator that can serve communities that jet aircraft can’t.”
Chan said the Government has also decided to invite private jet operators to set up base at Subang’s Terminal 3 or make it their transit point in Asia in an effort to turn the terminal into a general aviation hub.
“Malaysia’s edge over other countries in the region is that it is centrally located, and that Terminal 3 has very good runway and support facilities.”
He said the demand for private jet operations and chartered flights in the region was rising.
“We are talking to a few private jet operators in the United States, Europe and Australia for them to come to Subang or make it their transit point for fuel, logistic purposes and maintenance.
“At the same time, we will be carrying out some upgrading work at Terminal 3 to make it more conducive, with more facilities,” he said.
Source: The Star, Malaysia, NATION on 14 Jun 2007.