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MASwings to launch international services next year

Malaysia Airlines' domestic regional carrier in East Malaysia, MASwings, plans to launch international services next year to neighbouring countries.

"Probably in the second quarter of next year onwards, we would like to" start launching services from East Malaysia to nearby destinations in Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines, says MASwings' managing director Mohd Salleh Ahmad Tabrani.

This is in line with the government-backed BIMP-EAGA, Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia Philippines East Asean Growth Area initiative, says Salleh. But he adds in the case of MASwings, there is unlikely to be any government subsidies for launching the new services and that the airline will have to ensure these services are economically viable.

The destinations it is considering include: Davao in the Philippines, Balikpapan in Indonesia and Brunei's capital Bandar Seri Begawan, says Salleh.

MASwings will launch the international services using its ATR 72-500s.

It has just received its seventh ATR 72 and is due to receive the last three on order in February, March and April respectively, says Salleh.

By April, MASwings will have phased out its last four remaining Fokker 50s which are being returned to the aircraft's owner, Penerbangan Malaysia Berhad, which plans to sell the aircraft, he says.

Presently MASwings has no options for more ATR aircraft "but it is something we will look at in the future" particularly "if our expansion into the BIMP-EAGA is working for us".

MASwings is also hoping that the coastal town of Mukah, in the East Malaysian province of Sarawak, has its runway upgraded to handle ATRs, says Salleh.

"This is because demand is very good and we have high load factors with out Twin Otters so this destination" is suited to ATRs, he adds.

Besides ATRs, MASwings also has a fleet of four de Havilland Twin Otters and is seeking to lease a fifth, says Salleh.

It plans to use the additional Twin Otter to increase frequencies on existing routes and to launch two new routes linking Labuan island to other places in East Malaysia, he says.

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