The Election Commission (EC) announced this afternoon that the 15th Malaysian general election (GE15) will be held on November 19, triggering a rush of Malaysians booking their flights back to their hometowns to vote. As you can imagine, this has caused utter chaos as airlines are struggling to cope with the demand.
According to Malay Mail, the country’s two biggest operators, AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines, have resorted to jacking up prices mere minutes after the announcement. Return flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, which can usually be purchased for around RM400, have soared by nearly double that amount.
“Kuala Lumpur to Kuching for one person is almost RM500 using Malaysia Airlines. For AirAsia, it’s almost RM720. How to balik like this?” tweeted Syaherra (@ierrapaisan) to the publication. This didn’t seem to faze her however—when asked whether she would still return to her hometown, she replied: “Yes, of course I will balik! My first time voting and I would like to see better growth for Malaysia.”
Another Twitter user, @IcedNyior, said her sister encountered an error when trying to pay for a return trip between Johor Bahru and Kuching, then found that the fare had promptly more than doubled from RM359.42 to RM727.44. “She just paid the RM700+ amount. Gotta do what we can to exercise our right to vote,” she told Malay Mail.
It’s not just Kuchingites that are feeling the pinch—the English-language daily found that return flights between Singapore and KL during the election weekend cost up to RM744 through Malaysia Airlines and a whopping RM2,376 through AirAsia. The latter has since stabilised to RM1,924 when we checked it last, which is still an asinine amount for a budget airline. As for those living in JB, return flights to KL cost up to RM647.22 through MAS and RM495.42 through AirAsia.
Fares through Malindo Air are even more exorbitant, as we discovered—the company is charging RM1,639 for a round trip between KL and Kuching and RM1,849 for a trip to Kota Kinabalu and back, as it stopped offering Super Saver tickets for these flights.
The sheer demand for flights during election season may also cause delays preventing some people from voting on time (November 19, or November 15 for early voting), netizens have noted. Malay Mail said it has contacted AirAsia for comment.
Airline ticketing systems are also buckling under the weight of consumer demand—several Malaysians have complained about not receiving their flight ticket confirmation despite having made their payments. One of those is our own Alexander Wong, who detailed his experience here.
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