Sandakan @ Sabah, Malaysia : Our Travel Journal (Part 2)-Getting to Sandakan is now made easier by AirAsia

Written by @Lan & edited by @joehairie
(Photos by team members)
Special Mention: BIG AirAsia, Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan & Borneo Sandakan Tours

Pushing other big names in the aviation industry, AirAsia is again the Asia & World’s Best Low Cost Airline for 7th consecutive year. We are happy to see that AirAsia is servicing the route from Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur. For our recent trip from Kota Kinabalu to Sandakan, we chose to depart on the earliest AirAsia flight which was at 0700 HRS. The reason, hoping to see that majestic Mount Kinabalu from inside the plane. Being a budget airline, the airline is about a straight forward service, you get what you paid for, it’s a no frills airline but it gets you to the destination. Traveling to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu is now made easier by AirAsia. There are several flights to choose from, be it early morning, mid day or early evening. This entry is meant as a guide for future travelers to Sandakan, especially for the first timers.


The route, marked in red line 

Sandakan is located about 320 Kilometers away from Kota Kinabalu city. The easiest and fastest way to get to Sandakan from Kota Kinabalu is to opt for the air transportation. It will get you to Sandakan in less than 50 minutes time in comparison to almost 6 hours of journey on the road. There are 2 carriers when it comes to flying to Sandakan but being the AirAsia Bloggers’ Community (AABC) member, I recommend AirAsia for you.

Our aircraft, seen from the aerobridge

We were given 28A and 28B seats on our flight to Sandakan. We were quite happy as that seats will give us the opportunity to view Mount Kinabalu. The route to Sandakan will pass by the mountain and those seating on the left side, especially the A and B seats will get to see it through the window, that is if the weather decided to be on your side. Not long after we had our breakfast at the airport, it was already time for boarding. AK6492 was our flight number, with 9M-AQF as the aircraft registration number.

Boarding time

I am an aviation geek and I know things in the aviation industry that most people don’t care about. Be it no frills or full service airline, I always appreciate the beauty of such aircraft, the route that it takes, the service and so on. For this short 45 minutes flight to Sandakan, I was able to document the journey and took some photos. Fingers were crossed, both of us, many times, hoping to get the clear view of Mount Kinabalu.

Passengers slowly filling up the seats

Wherever and whenever possible, we both will always choose AirAsia for its connectivity, it gets people to most destination in Asia and Australasia for quite cheap fares, that is if you know when to book for your flights! The entire process from booking to the onboard experiences are hassle free. Cheap fares and wider space for our legs, freedom of eliminating the services that we do not need such as food & beverages thus cutting the fare(s) down to the bottom are the reasons for our loyalty.

Legroom counts!..and we were not on the Premium Seats

There is another carrier scheduled to leave for Sandakan, 20 minutes after our flight. It’s a full service airline with a bit higher fare, not serving any meals to economy passengers, same as AirAsia. AirAsia gave better fares, so why should we opt for the other airline? We will travel on that airline if we are left with no other choice. It’s a good airline though but we prefer the flexibility offered by AirAsia.

The other airline, leaving for Sandakan at 0720 HRS

Minutes after boarding, the captain announced that it’s time for push back and we’re ready to fly! We’re so excited to have the chance to view Mount Kinabalu, hopefully! My editor was even getting his ‘toy’ ready to shoot all the best moments during that short 45 minutes flight.

The editor, setting up his ‘toy’

Without even realizing it, the aircraft’s slowly made its ascend to the designated heights, going through the blue sky, heading to Mount Kinabalu point before making a right turn for the descend a few minutes later. Did we get to see the Mount Kinabalu? Have a look at the pictures below and see how the short flight went over some interesting landmarks.

TAR Islands, STAR Resort and Kampung Tanjung Aru
The Sutera Harbour Resort
Pulau Gaya
Pulau Sepanggar/Sepanggar Area..turning right to Mount Kinabalu point
Most of Mount Kinabalu surface were covered by the thick clouds….

There was nothing we can do about the view, maybe some other time we will get lucky!

Descending over Kinabatangan space
Into much lower altitude…
The landing…
Positioning to apron…
Passengers (including us) disembark..
getting into the terminal..end of flight

We were pretty amazed on how fast the journey was. It was supposed to be a 45 minute flight but the aircraft landed after 33 minutes cruising the open blue sky. Though we did not get to see the Mount Kinabalu in full, we were grateful to be able to get to Sandakan on that early morning of September 16, 2016. Read our next article on how we were brought to some must-visit attractions in Sandakan, courtesy of Borneo Sandakan Tours. To readers (including you), welcome to Sandakan..a place that has interesting stories from the past, one unique destination that offers the nature at its best.


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