|Aireen (left) speaking during the press conference. Also with her are (from second left) Abdul Karim, Lee and Abdul Wahab.|
KUCHING: The Kuching International Airport (KIA) has almost reached its capacity of five million passengers per year.
This was disclosed by AirAsia Berhad chief executive officer Aireen Omar who proposed that the international airport here be expanded to bring in more connectivity to the state.
“I think the current airport facility (KIA) is reaching its full capacity already because last year it has reached almost five million passengers and the capacity of this international airport is five million per annum.
“So I think we need to start looking at how to expand the airport now in order for us to realise our plans in bringing more connectivity,” she told a press conference after joining Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah in welcoming passengers from the inaugural AirAsia flight from Pontianak, Indonesia to Kuching at KIA yesterday.
Aireen was responding to a question on whether AirAsia’s plans to have a dedicated low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) in the state was still in the pipeline.
“We have our plans for the next five, seven and even ten years or so and we definitely need to start, working on this.
As a start what we can do immediately is whatever existing destinations we already have in our network, we can connect these routes into Kuching so that Kuching can have more direct flights.
“Apart from that, we can also look at the depth of direct flights and whether we can have more frequencies of existing routes while also expanding into new routes,” she explained.
She also suggested expanding beyond Asean countries in view of good traffic demand coming from North Asia and Australia among others.
“In order to speed this dream into reality as soon as possible, it will be fantastic to have an LCCT in the state. It is something we have always discussed with the state government and we look forward to the progress of this discussion,” she said.
Meanwhile, Abdul Karim noted that in order to have more tourists coming in to the state, there must be facilities to welcome them.
“It’s a question of chicken and egg. If you want to see more tourists, you have to make sure that the facilities are there. So, if the airport (KIA) itself has reached its maximum, then we should consider something else,” he said.
Abdul Karim said as the new minister in charge of tourism, he is keen to see the tourism sector develop in Sarawak as well as for more tourists to come in to the state.
“But then, it’s not just about tourists coming in. It’s also about facilities that we have got here like hotels, the things we have to offer…these are the things that also need to be upgraded. If we just make arrangement for flights to come in but we did not reciprocate by doing good things down here, to make our tourists feel welcome and have good memories while in Kuching, then it will go to waste.
“That’s why we will have to come together and arrange together and we are very delighted to hear that AirAsia is willing to help us here and look at us as a hub to Borneo,” he remarked.
Also present during the press conference were Assistant Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Lee Kim Shin and Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Abdul Wahab Aziz. -TheBorneoPost