STORY BY Raymondjim
The End of the Road for Firefly's Air Service to East MalaysiaFirefly made its maiden flight to Sandakan on August 1, 2011 with a big bang. The brand new Boeing 737-800 was greeted with the traditional aviation industry welcome – a water spraying guard-of-honor - upon arrival.
Firefly, the low cost subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines had just taken over the route formerly operated by its parent airline providing a twice daily all economy service and a better alternative in that it utilized the aerobridge for passengers embarkation and disembarkation.
Today’s flight marked the end of Firefly into Sandakan. Unlike Tawau, another East Malaysian town that Firefly had yet to take over the route from Mas, continues to have two direct daily services between Kuala Lumpur; there is no news that Malaysia Airline will return to operate this route. This thus left Sandakanites with no other choice in selecting their flights.
Though operated for just four months, Firefly was quick to attract a huge following of customers with cheaper fare and comfortable seats. It also provided easy connection for passengers holding onward journey to international destinations at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Gloomy faces of Firefly staff were seen. They were engaged just a few months and are now faced with the misfortune of joblessness.
Regular travelers and the large number of Sabahan working communities in West Malaysia now find that they have no other choice in selecting their flights. Added to all these, Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing flights between Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu are withdrawn altogether leaving only the smaller Turbo-prop ATR operated by Maswing.
From now on, passengers with ailments and those seeking medical treatment in West Malaysia will have to face the reality that their wheelchairs or stretchers are to be wheeled down the ramp and across the tarmac to be carried up the passenger steps, a situation prior to 2002 when the airport was without an aerobridge.
Surprisingly, the last flight FY540/541 arrived and departed with a full load of passengers.