MIRI (March 17): Malaysia Airlines (MAS) must not practice dynamic pricing arbitrarily across the board as it has a national duty to promote domestic tourism, thereby promoting national integration between the various states and races and regions, said former Bukit Mas MP Datuk Mutang Tagal.
Mutang, who is also Orang Ulu Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, said MAS via MASwings as well as Firefly operates the rural and domestic air services in Sarawak.
Unlike in Peninsular Malaysia where its road network is good compared to in Sarawak and Sabah, air travel in the Borneo states is not a luxury, he said.
“Just because other airlines practice dynamic pricing in determining the pricing of their tickets especially during peak seasons like school holidays, festivals and important occasions, it does not mean that MAS, MASwings and Firefly should follow suit blindly without considering its impact on rural, domestic and international travels,” he said.
He pointed out that they should, however, step up to ensure easy and affordable travel to promote national integration, tourism and expose new ideas and places in Malaysia.
Mutang said this in response to MAS’s clarification that peak season due to school holidays and dynamic pricing has caused airfares in Sarawak to spike this weekend as pointed out by an irate father recently who was shocked at the published rate when his daughter wanted to book a ticket from here this weekend to report to her university campus in Samarahan.
He said the Malaysian government subsidises MASwings to operate the rural air service in Sarawak and Sabah so that airfares from the major towns to rural settlements, villages, longhouses there are kept low and affordable to the rural people.
Dynamic pricing of rural air service sectors is not pragmatic as the vast states in East Malaysia are yet to be well connected through sealed, all weather roads between the towns and rural settlements, he added.
With MASwings’ 20 seater Twin Otter aircraft continuing to serve the rural sectors, Mutang also called on the airline to lift the nine-passenger cap per flight imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said capping the passengers in the Twin Otter to a maximum of nine per flight has become a sore point among travelers from rural villages and the tourism sector.
“Before Covid-19, each flight was allowed to carry more than nine passengers, but this (cap at nine passengers per flight) is now made somewhat a permanent fixture,” he said.
Pushing back against pricey fares during festive holidays, he said airlines should also be considerate of school children going back for the holidays and peak travels during festive seasons like Christmas, Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Gawai, Keamatan and other festivals.
“ATR (aircraft) services in Sarawak and Sabah must not practice dynamic pricings because they play a very important role in economic development in these regions by getting more people to travel for business et cetera. After all, ATR fares are heavily subsidised by the government,” he said.
With schools opening soon, colleges and universities to follow suit, he said MAS must not take advantage of the situation by applying dynamic pricing to tickets sold to returning students.
It should increase flight frequencies for its Boeing, ATR and Twin Otter flights, and avoid making many stops on a particular flight or cancelling flights arbitrarily, he added.
Mustang said the airline must adopt flight schedules at convenient times for the passengers.
“As a national airline, MAS must rise to the occasion and compete well with other private airlines for it has an enduring number of fans ready to patronise its flights going forward,” he said.