KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia – Malaysia Airlines today announced Kota Kinabalu in Sabah as its Eastern hub, leveraging on the strategic location of the city as an ideal gateway to promote travels to and from China, Taiwan, North Asia, Indonesia, and Australia.
The hub will be developed over 3 stages from November 15, 2010 to June 3, 2011, with Malaysia Airlines adding new international destinations and frequencies to complement the currently served foreign cities from Kota Kinabalu.
Malaysia Airlines managing director and CEO Tengku Azmil Zahruddin said: “We have seen an increase in demand from these countries into Sabah and Sarawak, which are ideal destinations for tourism and business.
“The setting up of Kota Kinabalu as the eastern hub enables us to provide our customers with better flight schedules and connectivity as they would not need to wait for the aircraft to arrive from Kuala Lumpur.
“To facilitate this, we will position 150 flight and 250 cabin crew in Kota Kinabalu by June 2011. We are also pleased to announce that 6 planes, 2 of which are our latest planes, the 2 B737-800s and 4 B734s will be based in Kota Kinabalu.
“This also provides us the opportunity for growth and expansion to new destinations. We currently expect a potential improvement per annum of between RM60 and RM100 million to our bottom line.”
Customers departing Kota Kinabalu will be among the first to experience Malaysia Airlines’ new B737-800 aircraft.
“Our customers will enjoy [a] roomier interior, better ambience, higher ceilings, mood lighting, [and an] inflight entertainment system on every business and economy class seats, which offers audio and video on demand and latest generation seats,” he added.
Also present at the briefing was the minister of tourism, culture, and environment Sabah, Yang Berhormat Datuk Masidi Manjun.
In terms of new destinations, there will be 3 non-stop weekly services to Haneda, the city airport in Tokyo (effective November 15, 2010) and twice weekly to Osaka (effective January 15, 2011). In January, there will also be 4 weekly flights to Seoul from the current 2.
By June 2011, Kota Kinabalu will have the following international flights: daily flights to Taipei and Hong Kong, 4 weekly to Kaohsiung and Seoul, 3 weekly to Haneda, and twice weekly services to Osaka. Other new international destinations in the planning include cities in China, Indonesia, and Australia.
At the same time, Kuching will enjoy 25 weekly flights, up from 14 weekly, to Kota Kinabalu, which facilitates access to these international destinations, making Sarawak more accessible to tourists and supporting Sarawak’s economic growth programs.
Malaysia Airlines will also be synchronizing the flight schedules from Kota Kinabalu with MASwings and vice versa to offer better connectivity.
Azmil said: “The promotion of Malaysia and attracting tourists is a core thrust of our business plan. We will continue to work closely with the Sabah and Sarawak state governments to promote the states overseas. We can further leverage on the natural attractions in these 2 Malaysian Borneo states.
“We are very excited and will continue to explore the possibility of introducing new international destinations from Kota Kinabalu. Announcements will be made as and when our plans are finalized.”