KUALA LUMPUR, April 10 — Increased flight fares to Sabah and Sarawak during festive seasons is not a surprise to Malaysians; in fact, it is an anticipated scenario annually.
With the reopening of the country’s borders and the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration, many individuals who have spent the two years staying put where they are due to many restrictions caused by COVID-19 are very much looking forward to returning to their hometowns for the celebration.
Local commercial airlines that provide flight routes from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu and Kuching offer tickets ranging up to RM300 for return flights during non-festive seasons.
However, Bernama’s monitoring of commercial airline websites recently saw flight flares skyrocketing up to RM2,000 (return flights), which is an increase of around 566 per cent, nearing the Hari Raya Aidilfitri festive period (April 29- May 8).
Lily Surianti Suardi, 23, a student from Sabah currently doing a degree programme at Universiti Selangor (UniSEL), opined that ailrlines should consider fixing separate rates for students who are furthering studies in the peninsula.
She said this is because not all students come from a well-to-do background and thus flight companies should not set prices that exceed the purchasing capability of all parties, especially students.
“If the ticket price is (about) RM1,000, many parties cannot afford it, more so if the family’s income is low.
“Some people from the B40 (lower income groiup) want to go home, but due to the soaring ticket prices, students like me have cancel our intention to go home,” she said when contacted by Bernama.
An executive, Fatin Afiqah Yamin, 25, purchased an AirAsia flight ticket to Kuching in early March with the flight set to depart on April 23.
She said she did this is to avoid the high demand for tickets during the festive season where seats are very limited.
“In comparison, the ticket bought for the date mentioned was for RM198, which increased to RM318 when I checked the latest ticket price again, today.
“So (RM318) is still expensive and far from the RM198 that got which is (a) round flight,” Fatin Afiqah said.
Earlier, a Facebook user by the name Fandyi Sanizan on April 6 posted an appeal to local airlines to reduce the price of flight tickets between Kuala Lumpur and Sandakan.
Through a snapshot provided in the post, it was shown that a one-way ticket by AirAsia from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan scheduled to depart on April 30 this month costs RM1,049, while another one-way ticket by FireFly for the same route on the same date cost RM1,400.
Bernama’s observation of comments left by users under a post from a public Facebook group, ’Airasia Flight Share Information’ on March 26 this year, which asked its members about flight tickets bought for Hari Raya Aidilfitri travel to Sabah, showed that most of them had bought the tickets as early as last year.
One of them who went by the username GJ Musang said: “I bought (two-way) tickets for three persons last year for only RM1,682.”
Another user, Jue Dalilah commented that her family bought two-way tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Tawau for all 18 family members in December last year, which cost RM258 per person (one-way for RM129).
“I bought the tickets that month although I was feeling doubtful and scared, lest anything else happens during the pandemic season. We have not gone back (to Tawau) for the Hari Raya celebration in a few years,” she said.
On November 27 last year, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law) Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar was reported to have said that airline companies need to come to a compromise to resolve the issue of high ticket prices to Sabah and Sarawak, especially during the year-end holidays and festive seasons.
However, he said the government understands the constraints faced by airlines due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has affected their operations and profits and would not interfere in the matter of flight fares by setting ceiling prices.