Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong has called upon the Sarawak state government to remove frequency restrictions on airlines following complaints that air tickets to the state could cost over RM1,000 per way. His Ministry had actively engaged with the industry players and state governments including Sarawak to increase the frequency of flights to all destinations against the backdrop of the ongoing efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Wee said on Facebook, “As I have noted in my statements on 3rd and 6th November 2021, much of the solution comes with removing frequency restrictions on airlines to fly to various states. In doing so, air fares would then be dictated by market-driven dynamic pricing mechanism, which take into account supply and demand, economic conditions, fuel costs, and other operational factors among others.”
He said the Ministry of Transport had written to Sarawak’s Minister of Transport Datuk Lee Kim Shin to request the state government to return the decisions of regulating air passenger service frequencies to the Malaysian Aviation Commission (MAVCOM). While he noted that Sarawak has its own needs to contain COVID-19, the state government should do its part to allow the market supply and demand to prevail and to fully allow airlines to increase their air passenger service frequencies based on market-driving operational considerations. He said MAVCOM and the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) are prepared to approve more flight frequencies to the state. He said all parties are also responsible to strictly complying with Ministry of Health protocols to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The Sarawak Disaster Management Committee and Sarawak Ministry of Transport have recently increased the frequency of flights into Sarawak from 223 to 307 per week to Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, AirAsia, Malindo, and Scoot from 4th December 2021 to 5th January 2022. The Transport Minister hopes that the Sarawak state government will expeditiously bring the number back up to 502 flights per week as it was before the pandemic.
Dr Wee also reminded all airlines to refrain from hiking up air fares to address the wide public perception that this is done by airlines to recoup losses due to the pandemic.
Malaysia Airlines has announced that it will operate additional flights between 11th December 2021 to 5th January 2022 as it has received approval from the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee. The Kuala Lumpur to Kuching route will be increased from 21 to 35 flights weekly, while other routes such as Kuala Lumpur to Bintulu, Kuala Lumpur to Sibu, Kuala Lumpur to Miri, will be increased from 7 to 14 flights weekly.
AirAsia has also issued a statement to clarify the high ticket prices to Sarawak. Its CEO Riad Asmat said the airline used to operate 310 weekly flights to Sarawak and it is now operating just 116 flights weekly despite interstate travel restrictions having been lifted. The airline has received the green light to increase its flight frequency to 158 flights weekly from 4th December. The low-cost carrier used to operate up to 15 flights daily between Kuala Lumpur to Kuching and it will be doing just 5 flights daily with the latest approval, which is a 67% reduction.