Saturday, June 16, 2007

FAX: No choice but to ground Fokkers

It is better to be safe than to be popular. Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) chief executive officer Raja Mohd Azmi Razali said this in response to the rural air connection woes faced by travellers in northern Sarawak and Sabah.

The problem arose because the sectors served by its Fokker planes are ageing and are being subjected to “extra-intensive and extra-stringent repairs and checks from head to tail.”

Raja Azmi told The Star that the airline's top management decided to ground the Fokkers and subject each of the planes to detailed check-ups even though it knows this would cause massive air-connection problems.

“We have no choice but to ground these aircraft so that we can put each of them through extra-intensive checkups and repairs. When we took over these aircraft from Malaysia Airlines last August, the Fokkers were already old,” said Raja Azmi.

“Yes, they were in good working condition. However, of the 10 Fokkers that MAS used to serve northern Sarawak and Sabah, they only gave us seven.

“FAX had to use these seven Fokkers to serve the destinations that were served by the 10 Fokkers,” he added.

“We had to fly to more sectors, make more rounds and carry more load due to the decrease in the number of Fokkers. This super-heavy-duty usage has taken its toil on the seven Fokkers.”

He said FAX would ensure that things would be back to normal by today.

This is the first time that FAX has given a detailed explanation on the reasons behind the grounding of the Fokkers. Of the seven, only one is in flying condition.

There are some 22 rural destinations spanning central and northern Sarawak and Sabah that rely on the 50-seater Fokker aircraft every day.

The grounding of the aircraft had caused uproar among some people, notably those among the business and tourism sectors as well as rural folk who had no other means of swift transportation to the outside world.

The Fokkers are used to serve – among others, Sibu, Kapit, Bintulu, Mukah, Miri, Limbang, Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan – an area equal to about 70% of peninsular Malaysia in size.

Source : STAR
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