Letter from the Skies: The Chinese Are Coming, So is AI on Steroids – Hello, 2023
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Friday, 6th January 2023

Let’s welcome back Chinese travellers with empathy, and brace for the AI revolution to come.

I am writing this at 15,000 feet, onboard an ATR 72-500 on a Firefly flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, has carved out a nice little niche for itself on one of South-east Asia’s busiest routes, plying between the secondary airports of Seletar and Subang.

It’s a good way to start a new year of travel, my first trip of 2023. Flying out of Seletar and arriving in Subang reminds me of the days when the travelling was easy – small airports, no crowds, no queues. Mr Teh Tarik does a brisk trade, being the only dining outlet in Seletar. And in Subang, a guitarist busker entertains travellers with an acoustic rendition of Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect”.

For the past 20 years, since the advent of low cost airlines, secondary airports have played a vital role in the distribution of travel in South-east Asia, linking families, friends, small businesses and communities throughout the region that is home to nearly 700 million people.

And I sense airports such as Seletar and Subang will continue to play a critical role as travel gets back to its feet fully in 2023, and more low cost airlines take to the skies, including the new one in the country I am flying to. Calling itself “the new red”, MYAirline took off on December 1, 2022 and, to date, is operating 20 daily flights across Malaysia. It is also eyeing markets in South-east Asia, namely Singapore, Bali, Bangkok and others in the first quarter of 2023.

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