Call to make more international direct flights accessible to Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: There has been significant demand for international flights into Sabah, following the increase in international direct flights to the state.

The latest was the arrival of South Korea's Air Busan between Busan and Kota Kinabalu which resumed operations yesterday after a two-year hiatus because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The airline brought in 220 holidaymakers to mark the 17 direct scheduled flights from South Korea to Sabah since the reopening of international borders on April 1.

State Assistant Tourism, Culture, and Environment Minister Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who welcomed the passengers at Kota Kinabalu International Airport, said he hoped Sabah would continue to increase the number of international flights from major foreign cities to make the state more accessible.

"We are definitely considering expanding direct flights and possibly resuming previously suspended direct routes from Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and China.

"For this reason, we must keep in touch with airline companies and keep abreast of their objectives in order to reach a mutual understanding and devise a workable strategy," he said.

To date, there were 40 weekly direct international scheduled flights into Sabah, with South Korea having the highest number, said Joniston who is also the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman.

This is followed by Singapore (14), Brunei Darussalam (four), Thailand (three) and the Philippines (two).

Since April 1, five foreign carriers have returned to Sabah including three Korean low-cost airlines.

They are Jeju Air and Jin Air (both from Incheon), and Air Busan (from Incheon and Busan).

Others are Scoot (from Singapore) and Royal Brunei Airlines (from Bandar Seri Begawan).

Malaysia's budget airline AirAsia is also offering direct flights to Kota Kinabalu from Singapore, Manila, and Bangkok.

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