16 April 2022
SABAH WELCOMES FIRST INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT VIA SINGAPORE
KOTA KINABALU: Singapore will continue to be a key market and important hub for Sabah following the return of direct international flights between the Lion City and Kota Kinabalu.
On Saturday, an AirAsia aircraft arriving from Singapore received a water cannon salute as Sabah welcomed its first international flight after two years.
The AK 1794 flight was carrying 119 passengers, with 30 percent being Singaporeans. The flight touched down at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport at 2.19pm.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister cum Sabah Tourism Board chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai was on hand to greet them upon their arrival.
“I would like to commend AirAsia for being the first airline to open up the international flight for Sabah…this is a momentous occasion for all involved.
“Singapore is a very important market to Sabah as it has been our focus market for many years now and it is also a highly important hub for Sabah as it connects out other focus markets around the world into Sabah,” he said.
Noting Singaporeans’ love of nature, diving, and adventure, Joniston said Singaporeans may now look forward to travelling to Sabah and indulging in their passions once more with the reinstatement of the Singapore – Kota Kinabalu route.
Joniston said his Ministry through the Sabah Tourism Board has planned several promotional initiatives to entice Singaporeans to return to Sabah.
From April 22-28, he said, the Board and Sabah Industry Players will attend the Travel Malaysia Digital Fair.
“Through this Fair, the Singaporean consumers will be presented with many selections of tourism products and stays. We received strong support from the Sabah industry players as well whereby they highlight their popular packages such as wildlife, nature, and adventure.
“Looking back to a pre-pandemic time, this Fair had managed to attract many Singaporeans into Sabah and we are confident this trend will return as currently, enquiries from Singapore on Sabah tourism packages have already started to pour in,” said Joniston.
The Smart Locals, one of Singapore’s leading online publishers, will link the event’s platform to a Sabah digital campaign to help the state’s tourism players succeed at the Travel Malaysia Digital Fair, he added.
According to Joniston, the low-cost carrier AirAsia has been an important contributor to Sabah’s economy through tourism and hospitality since its presence in 2001.
“I am pleased to learn that AirAsia has expanded its offerings beyond flights, and is now home to several thriving e-commerce ventures, namely its one-stop platform, the AirAsia Super App.
“In line with the transition to an endemic phase, I believe that this resumption of international flights comes at the right time for both tourists and locals in Sabah, who have been excitedly anticipating and planning their travels,” he said.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, Sabah received 126,000 passengers through Singapore. Singaporeans account for 34,000 of the total.
Meanwhile, AirAsia (airlines) chief commercial officer Tan Mai Yin stated that the airline is currently operating thrice-weekly flights between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, with daily flights beginning on April 29.
“We are also reviewing direct flights from Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia to Kota Kinabalu. We are excited about this and we will announce a further update,” she said.
Tan added that they expected the direct route from Thailand and the Philippines to begin in the first half of this year, with the rest following in the second half.
Present at the event were the state’s tourism ministry Permanent Secretary Datuk Mohd Yusrie Abdullah; Tourism Malaysia Deputy Chairman Datuk Seri Dr. Anil Jeet Singh Sandhu; Sabah Tourism Board chief executive officer Noredah Othman; and Tourism Malaysia Sabah director Ednie Rahma Ab Rahim, among others.