24th April, 2016
By PAUL MU
KOTA KINABALU: The direct charter flight services between Tianjin and Kota Kinabalu will resume from June to December this year after taking a two-month break.
The service initially started from January to March was discontinued after some untoward incidents in the eastern coast.
And a new contract has been signed between Shanlian E.Commerce Co president Tang Wen Ge and Universal Charter executive chairman Datuk Rashid Khan to revive the service in the second half of this year.
Shanlian and Universal are respectively a Tianjin and a Kuala Lumpur based companies. The initial agreement signed early this year also involved both of these companies.
The signing ceremony held at a hotel here on Friday was witnessed by Sabah Tourism Board (STB) chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) head of charter Yazid Mohamed and Tianjin Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference vice director general Yin Bo.
“We believe the charter flight services have the potential to generate economic spin-offs of some RM33 million for Sabah throughout the period from January to December,” said Rashid.
According to Yazid, the response was encouraging during the initial operations from January to March because it coincided with the Chinese New Year period.
“The passengers coming to Kota Kinabalu were a mix of holidaymakers and incentive groups from corporate companies,” noted Yazid.
For the coming services, he said there would be three flights a week – on Monday, Wednesday and Friday – for a four-day and five-night tour packages in Sabah.
“We will be using the Boeing 737-800 plane which has a seating capacity of 160 passengers. We expect to mount some 100 flights and bring in some 16,000 visitors to Sabah from Tianjin,” said Yazid.
He added that if the demand was good, they would increase the flight frequency.
“Targeting smaller cities is something new to MAS because traditionally we only serve the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. But these smaller cities also have huge potential market because they have huge populations.
“So we need time to develop this route and usually we begin the service by mounting charter flights,” Yazid said.
He also said it was very important for Sabah Tourism and MAS to play their part to provide assistance and facilitate the marketing and publicity for targeted destinations.
“I am glad both the STB chairman and its general manager (Gordon Yapp) have expressed their commitment to assist to promote the destination as Tianjin had brought in a group of journalists on a familiarization tour in Kota Kinabalu to promote Sabah back home,” he added.
Some 8,000 from Tianjin have migrated to Sabah to date.
Tianjin is a metropolis in northern coastal China and it is about five hour’s flight from Kota Kinabalu.