Flying Fox Airways’ maiden flight to Medan, Indonesia which was scheduled for 13 December has been postponed again though this time it is due to maintenance to the runway.
Flying Fox Airways CEO Mr Daniel Lee called a press conference two days before the maiden flight date to announce the postponement. According to Lee he was told to postpone its maiden flight “for the time being as Sultan Azlan Shah Airport can only cater for ATR-72 flights” despite previous approvals from relevant authorities allowing Flying Fox Airways to fly in Boeing 737-400 aircraft for the Ipoh-Medan route. It will be re-launched again in June 2014 onwards by which time it would schedule a new route Ipoh-Medan-China.
Describing the delay as “unfortunate and a small set back”, Lee reiterated that Flying Fox Airways was an Ipoh born and bred company and it was here to stay. His immediate task was to refund all monies to their ticket purchasers.
Flying Fox flight schedule for December was for twice per week increasing to four times per week in January and daily towards June. The Boeing 737-400 aircraft plying the Ipoh-Medan route has an average seating capacity of 160 passengers. Their return flight for December was 80 per cent sold while 50 per cent of their seats for the January to June period were sold. Lee indicated a contingency plan that by June 2014, if Boeing flights were unable to land, he would bring in smaller aircraft to ensure Perakeans can still fly from Ipoh.
When trying to get statements from the various local authorities such as MAB, Ipoh Echo was instructed to approach the Ministry of Transport (MOT) for a statement. When contacted a spokesman from MOT responded that the runway is being upgraded and the flight has been postponed for safety reasons. The upgrading work tentatively would take four months to complete.
State Exco for Tourism, YB Nolee Ashilin Radzi when contacted said that she was obviously disappointed about the new development but it could not be avoided as it was a directive from MOT. Nolee added that the Mineral and Geoscience Department was currently doing studies on the runway.
Senior Business Manager for Pantai Hospital Mr Nicholas Chan who has been keenly promoting medical tourism, when contacted about the postponement said their plans were all in place and would prefer to see operations running smoothly before going to the next level of promotions.
A check with hotel and tour agents also received a similar response, which was to promote more aggressively when the operation was running smoothly. For now, all parties, as disappointing as it is, will have just to take a break.
Interestingly, due to the efforts done by Flying Fox and Lee, close to 200 interested parties comprising of tour agents, hoteliers and hospitals at both Indonesia and Malaysia will share in this disappointing postponement.