The Sarawak Ministry of Transport is monitoring all flight schedules into the state to prevent the spread of COVID-19, its minister Datuk Lee Kim Shin said today.
He said the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) has decided the number and frequency of flights allowed for each airlines going into and out of the Borneo state.
He added that the state has been working with the federal Transport Ministry, the Malaysian Aviation Commission and the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia to ensure that the airlines strictly comply with a decision made by SDMC.
“SDMC has decided on the flight schedules and frequencies from outside into Sarawak for each airline since October 1,” Lee said in a statement.
“Therefore, we would like to advise the public to be extra careful before purchasing any flight ticket,” he added.
Lee said travellers should only buy tickets based on the SDMC approved flight schedules and frequencies to avoid unnecessary hassle and inconveniences.
He said the approved schedules and frequencies into Sarawak are from Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baru, Penang, Kota Baru, Labuan, Kota Kinabalu and Singapore.
He said SDMC made the decision after taking into consideration various factors, including the alarming COVID-19 situation in other states, as well as the number of quarantine centres and rooms available in Sarawak.
He said the decision was also based on the need to facilitate the movement of goods and people, the medical and frontline capacity in handling the screening test and the need to protect Sarawakians from COVID-19.
Lee said he has received complaints from some passengers who claimed airlines accepted their bookings, with their fares paid accordingly, only to have their flights cancelled later.
“However, the airlines did not refund the money but instead retained the amount as credit,” he said, adding that in response to these complaints, he has personally spoken to the federal Deputy Minister of Transport Hasbi Habibollah earlier today.
He said that Hasbi will work out passengers’ request for refund of monies paid for their air tickets.
“In this regard, we are reminding all airlines to follow the SDMC approved flight schedule and frequency to Sarawak when promoting as well as selling air tickets to the public,” he said.
He added passengers should be refunded their air ticket fare either by cash or credit directly to their bank account because the flight was cancelled by the airlines since it was not listed in the SDMC approved list.
“We are also seeking the cooperation of all airlines to fully utilise the use of aerobridge in all Sarawak airports,” he said, adding that the failure to use aerobridge has great inconveniences and safety concerns to passengers especially the elderly, small children and people with special needs.
“We hope that the airlines are sensitive to the needs of these passengers in the state, more so during this raining season,” he said. — Malay Mail