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MASwings consequently decided to move forward the opening of new international routes

Is MASwings turning into BIMP EAGA true brand ambassador ?

(Kuala Lumpur-Bangkok)- Regional carrier MASwings, a subsidiary from Malaysia Airlines, is increasingly turning into the “native” carrier of BIMP-EAGA. Ever heard of this acronym? BIMP-EAGA stands for Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asia Growth Area. It comprises mostly the islands of Borneo (Brunei/Indonesia/Malaysia), Sulawesi (Indonesia) as well Mindanao and Palawan (Philippines). A tourism brand was launched a couple of years ago to support tourism activities. Meanwhile, ‘Equator Asia’ – a Japan sponsored rebranding exercise- still did not achieved its target of bringing more awareness worldwide for the area. One of the biggest headaches for the growth triangle to be properly promoted was -and still is- the lack of international air connections as well as an efficient intra-BIMP EAGA air network.

Brunei could be the natural international and intercontinental gateway to the region. However, the strategic decision from Royal Brunei Airlines not to have regional feeder services to its long haul network proves wrong. It disconnects rather than integrates Bandar Sri Begawan airport from the rest of the air movements in the region. Kota Kinabalu, which is already the largest airports in the area with over five million passengers a year and Kuching- both located in Malaysia- are due to take over the role of regional hubs which Brunei could have  assumed.
And they now will be helped by MASwings. MAS regional offshoot does not only link cities in East Malaysia but looks at increasingly offer international connections. Last February in its first development’s phase, MASwings started linking Kuching (Sarawak) to Pontianak (West Kalimantan) and Bandar Sri Begawan; from Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), the airline flies via Tawau to Tarakan (East Kalimantan) and to Bandar Sri Begawan. Success has been considerable, showing the relevance to develop intra-regional flights. Average occupancy for the new flights reached 65% in just a few months operations with some peak at 80%.

MASwings consequently decided to move forward the opening of new international routes. The Kota Kinabalu-Tawau-Tarakan route will be upgraded to a daily frequency on July 1st while from October, it will also start a new route linking for the first time Kuching to Balikpapan, the centre of the oil industry in East Kalimantan. Negotiations are also going on to allow the carrier to operate a direct service from Kota KInabalu to Puerto Princesa, the main gateway to Palawan Island (Philippines). MASwings operates a fleet of 14 aircraft, including 10 ATR 72 with 68 seats.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.