New Straights Times Online
By : Sean Augustin
KUALA TERENGGANU: For the first time, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 747-400 landed at the Kuala Terengganu Sultan Mahmud Airport, bringing a load of excited passengers and good news for the state. The debut flight yesterday signalled the beginning of direct flights to Mecca for Muslims on the east coast to perform the haj, bringing to fruit a four-year-old ambition.
This year will see 18 return flights to Jeddah beginning Nov 13 and the ferrying of about 3,000 pilgrims from Terengganu, Kelantan and Pahang.
In the past, pilgrims from the east coast would head for Kuala Lumpur before boarding a flight to Mecca.
The landing also signified state preparations to fly in horses beginning on Oct 17 for the World Endurance Championship (WEC) in early November.
The state government also signed an agreement to finance a sum of RM4.6 million with MAS, being the excess cost for the haj this year and the WEC, including transportation cost for ground service equipment, logistics and petrol.
The cost was supposed to be borne by MAS due to the change in flight schedules from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport to the Sultan Mahmud Airport.
"With the new facilities, the airport has reached international standard and we are working hard to get the title from the Transport Ministry," said Terengganu Men-teri Besar Datuk Ahmad Said after greeting 224 passengers, including 40 orphans and journalists, on the flight.
"It will be a gateway to the east coast," Ahmad said, adding that negotiations were also ongoing with the Department of Civil Aviation to bring in more flights from China because of the airport's convenient location.
"The airport is a long-term investment for the state and we hope to get more international flights and develop the tourism industry.
"Right now, we are looking at incentives, including an airport tax subsidy to attract more international landings."
MAS external relations senior general manager Datuk Mohd Nawawi Awang captained a fly-past over the airport and the city before landing about 3pm, when it received a water salute from two fire trucks.
Full article, NST Online
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