SUBANG: Malaysians can look forward to hassle-free island holidays as a new low-cost carrier, SKS Airways, is now flying from Subang to Pulau Pangkor, Pulau Redang and Pulau Tioman.

As domestic travel is expected to pick up following lower Covid-19 exposure risks, the routes are timely for the recovery of both the aviation and tourism industries as these islands have been popular tourist destinations for locals and foreigners, said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.

Dr Wee, who launched the new airline yesterday, lauded SKS Airways for charting history in the Malaysian aviation industry as the path to obtaining an air service licence (ASL) from the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) is a very “stringent process”.

He said that SKS Airways will fill a niche, rather than compete head-on with Malaysia Airlines, as both airlines “don’t disturb each other”.

‘’The island destinations have been some of the preferred tourist destinations for locals and foreigners alike.

“The routes offered by SKS Airways will promote these destinations as well as domestic air travel, which is good following the Covid-19 pandemic that has badly affected the aviation and tourism industries.

“Those underserved destinations, when there are more tourists, will become destinations to promote,” he said at the launch of the inaugural SKS flight to Pangkor from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport here yesterday.

Also present were Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Santhara Kumar, and Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) executive chairman Datuk Seri Saripuddin Kassim.

Dr Wee noted that Malaysian airports have seen an increase in passengers following the gradual reopening of the country’s borders.

“Our airports handled only 11 million passengers last year, a significant drop due to the pandemic, travel bans and lockdowns.

“However, the numbers picked up in the last two months of 2021, which were notably a big jump following the introduction of the vaccinated travel lane (VTL) with Singapore and the travel bubble to Langkawi,” he said.

Calling on more people to travel domestically, Dr Wee said such trips can be made with greater confidence now, following high levels of vaccination.

“We must take the bold step, like having the VTL with Singapore and travel bubble with more countries to boost our tourism sector.

“This year, we are optimistic of getting between 32.6 and 49 million air passengers, or almost half of the pre-Covid-19 figure of 109.5 million in 2019,” he added.

SKS Airways director Datuk Rohman Ahmad said with hubs in Subang and Senai, the airline plans to connect Malaysia to destinations in Asean and southern China.

‘’After three years of preparations, there have been setbacks and delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘’This inaugural flight is meaningful as it marks our beginning as a commercial airline offering passenger, cargo and charter services,’’ he said.

Daily flights between Subang and Pulau Pangkor begin today.

These will be followed by the Subang-Pulau Redang service on Jan 31, while the Subang-Pulau Tioman flights will commence in the second quarter of this year.

Operating on the 19-passenger Twin Otter aircraft, the airline expects to appeal to the IT-savvy Gen-Y and Gen-Z individuals, young families and island lovers who prefer short weekend getaways.

The all-in fares start from RM160 one way, where passengers can choose their preferred fare system.

To another question, Dr Wee reiterated that the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport remains under the management of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), although plans to privatise it remain on the table.