KOTA KINABALU July 4 - Malaysia Airlines on Friday launched its scheduled service between Kota Kinabalu and Balikpapan in East Kalimatan as part of its efforts to expand air linkages in the region, particularly in the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
MAS will operate twice weekly flights on Tuesdays and Fridays between Kota Kinabalu and Balikpapan.
MAS Senior General Manager, Datuk Ahmad Fuaad Dahlan, said that the flight linking Balikpapan in Indonesia was a vital step in its strategy to provide new air routes between Balikpapan and the Orient.
He said this at the sending-off ceremony at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, here on Friday.
"We hope this will be the catalyst for other airlines to fly into Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, adding the presence of Royal Brunei Airlines, Dragon Air, Trans Asia Airways, Uni Air, Eva Air. And most recently Australian Airlines that began services between Kota Kinabalu and Sydney effective June 30, 2003," he said.
MAS on Thursday launched similar flights between Kuching and Balikpapan.
Ahmad Fuaad said that MAS plans to open up Sabah and Sarawak to more domestic and international travel and for Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to eventually occupy a significant place on Southeast Asia's aviation map.
"This will bring added tourism revenues, whilst accelerating the states' economic development and integration in this region," he added.
On board the inaugural flight to Balikpapan was Sabah's trade delegation led by State Assistant Minister of Industrial Development, Samsu Baharum Abdul Rahman and local press headed by Sabah Journalists Association's Recreation sub-committe chairman Kamarudin Liusin.
Among the trade delegation were Sabah Bumiputera Chamber of Commerce, Sabah United Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Sabah Kadazan Dusun Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Sabah Manufacturers and Tawau BIMP-EAGA Business Council.