Malaysian flights returning to normal


Flights are returning to Malaysia as confidence is restored following the effects of the Sars outbreak in the region.

To begin with, Gulf-based airlines will reinstate their flights to Malaysia beginning the middle of this month.

The move follows the government's tourism promotion efforts since last month to allay fears among Middle Eastern tourists over Sars.

Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Datuk Paduka Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir said some airlines would resume the normal frequency of their flights while several others would have additional flights to the country as they were confident that the country was safe and free of local transmission of Sars.

"We have met airlines and media representatives and tour operators in the Middle East and told them that there is no need to worry or be afraid of travelling to the country because the country is free of Sars," he told reporters.

He also met representatives from seven Middle East airlines - Emirates Airlines, Yemen Airways, Gulf Air, Qatar Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Iran Air and Jordan Airlines in Dubai.

Saudi Arabian Airlines have put back seven of its daily flights and some additional flights to Malaysia, while Qatar Airways will have two additional flights besides five other daily flights. Iran Air would reinstate one of its flights, he said.

Saudi Arabian Airlines had cut the number of flights to the country to three from six previously while Iran Air reduced its service to Malaysia from two flights to one flight because of the SARS scare.

"We are confident that things will go back to normal," Abdul Kadir said.

Saudi Arabian Airlines area manager (Malaysia and Singapore) Saad Al Sulaiman said that there were even forward flight bookings to Malaysia.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Tunku Iskandar Tunku Abdullah said the reinstatement of flights would resolve the issue of not having enough flights to bring tourists to the country.

"This is an indication that airlines are now confident that the country is indeed free of Sars," he said.