Discussions around the Malaysian state of Sarawak setting up its own boutique airline are at an advanced stage with the central government, with a decision expected within three months, according to local media reports.

Sarawak Premier Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Abang Johari Tun Openg told reporters the matter was being discussed with Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who had been receptive to the plan. “We are also still in talks with the State Economic Planning Unit (the principal government agency responsible for development plans for Malaysia) and Khazanah Nasional Berhad (the sovereign wealth fund of the Malaysian government) about establishing our own boutique airline to boost our tourism industry,” he was cited by Dayak Daily.

“We want an arrangement where international tourists can board a direct flight to Kuching, bypassing Kuala Lumpur International along the way, as it would be more convenient to provide a point-to-point transit to tourists,” he said earlier during a dinner for the Sarawak Business Federation (SBF) and the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia (NCCIM), reported the Borneo Post.

Last year, it was reported that Hornbill Skyways (Kuching) would form the basis for the proposed Sarawak-based airline although no mention of its role was made this time round.

Three Malaysian airlines - AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, and MASwings - have crew bases at Kuching, with AirAsia holding 74% market share at the airport in terms of weekly airline seat capacity, the ch-aviation capacities module shows. The most popular route from Kuching is to Kuala Lumpur International, providing 40% of the weekly seat capacity to the airport.