29 Nov - 3 min read
The Ministry of Transport (MOT) has urged airline companies within the country to reduce their airfares for domestic flights immediately, without requiring further government intervention. This is especially with regard to the current airfares to Sarawak for the upcoming state election and holiday period, which has drawn intense public scrutiny over the past week.
“This is a matter of serious concern to the government and many discussions have been held to resolve this issue which affects many people, from the travellers themselves to the family members they long to reunite with after much time apart due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said the Transport Minister, Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong via a Facebook post, acknowledging that the current fares are taxing for consumers, and that the government is aware of the concern and feedback from the public.
Last week, the Malaysian public, along with non-governmental organisations (NGOs), has highlighted and questioned the exorbitant price of flight tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Sarawak. In fact, some netizens even pointed out that the price for one-way Kuala Lumpur-Sarawak flights from Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is even pricier than for Kuala Lumpur-London flights on Christmas day.
In response, MAS explained that the price of its flight tickets are determined by the market’s demand and supply. AirAsia also clarified that the high airfares to Sarawak is due to limited flights and high seasonal demand. Specifically, AirAsia said that the flight frequency to Sarawak was reduced due to limitations imposed by the Ministry of Transport Sarawak (MOTS) and Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).
To resolve the matter, Wee said that MOT has met with MAS, AirAsia, and Malindo to discuss the necessity of reducing airfares for the people’s benefit. “Malaysia Airlines has pledged to add additional flights to Sarawak in December, which should result in reduction in fares to the state. The Malaysia Aviation Commission (MAVCOM) and Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) are also prepared to approve more flight frequencies,” he added.
Moreover, Wee said that the MOT has also contacted the Minister of Transport for Sarawak, Datuk Lee Kim Shin, requesting for the state government to return the decision-making authority over flight frequencies to MAVCOM. “Although we fully understand and align with Sarawak’s need to contain Covid-19, state governments and their related agencies must do their part to let market supply and demand prevail and fully allow airlines to increase their air passenger service frequencies based on market-driven consideration,” he said.
Meanwhile, the SDMC and state transport authorities have decided to increase the frequency of flights into the state, from the current 223 to 307 per week. This new allowance will take effect from December 2021 to 5 January 2022, with the flights being operated by MAS, Firefly, AirAsia, Malindo, and Scoot.
MAS, for instance, confirmed that it will increase the frequency of its Kuala Lumpur-Kuching flights from 21 to 35 weekly during this period, whereas Kuala Lumpur-Bintulu/Miri/Sibu flights will be increased from 7 to 14 per week. With this, it is hoped the fares will be reduced.
Finally, Wee reminded all industry players to avoid hiking air fares in a bid to address the wide public perception that airlines are trying to recoup their losses during the pandemic by doing so.
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