Singapore-Malaysia Settlement Allows Firefly Seletar Service

 - April 8, 2019, 9:34 AM
Firefly's ATR 72s will begin flying out of Singapore's Seletar Airport on April 21. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by Kentaro IEMOTO)

Malaysia Airlines wholly owned subsidiary Firefly received approval to resume service to and from Singapore's Seletar Airport on April 21, putting an end to a nearly five-month-old flight suspension due to an airspace dispute between Malaysia and Singapore. Speaking at a joint press conference with Singaporean counterpart, Khaw Boon Wan, Malaysian transport minister Anthony Loke told reporters of his willingness to increase air connectivity between the two countries before adding that another Malaysian carrier, Malindo Air, is looking to launch flights to Seletar.

The deal comes after talks between the two Southeast Asian neighbors broke down last December over Singapore’s plan to implement a new set of instrument landing system (ILS) procedures at Seletar. In response, Loke said the new ILS flight path would encroach on Malaysia’s airspace over Pasir Gudang, Johor, leading to an infringement on “national sovereignty” and height restrictions on new buildings. In early January, a Notam went into effect, preventing all civilian aircraft from entering the airspace set from 2,000 feet to 5,000 feet without prior approval from the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

In December, Firefly halted plans to relocate from Changi Airport and shelved all its flights to Singapore due to ongoing tensions between the two countries; the $4.9 million projected flight cancellation loss of monthly revenue affected around 13,000 passengers. The move to relocate Firefly’s turboprop operations to a new passenger terminal at Seletar was intended to open capacity at Changi.

Following months of negotiations, the governments of Singapore and Malaysia struck a deal late Friday to end their dispute over airspace and flight procedures for Seletar. In a joint statement released on April 6, Singapore vowed to withdraw its new ILS procedures. In return, Malaysia will indefinitely suspend the restricted airspace label it placed on Pasir Gudang, Johor. Both parties made the agreement “in the spirit of bilateral cooperation,” the statement read.

With the ban lifted and a new agreement in place, the two sides will resume talks over Malaysia’s intentions to reclaim control and management of airspace over Johor state. Currently, Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority covers air traffic control operations over southern Johor under an agreement signed between the two countries.