KOTA KINABALU (Apr 17): Airline tickets to Sabah during festivities need to be reevaluated, said Warisan president Datuk Seri Panglima Mohd Shafie Apdal.
He said that the very steep prices of flight tickets from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Sandakan and Labuan has been on for a long time.
“For years, these issues and situations have arisen especially during festivities,” he said.
“We realise and are aware that the operation cost of aeroplanes is not cheap and with the rising cost of fuel as well as the unpredictable world economic market,” he added.
However, he said the people and also clients want relevant government and enforcers to be involved with the hope of reasonable flight tickets during the season of festivities.
Shafie added at the same time, the price of domestic flights in Sabah has also more than doubled and Sabahans have two choices of travel which is by air or to take the road.
He reminded that presently, there are many damaged roads in Sabah and some roads are even unsafe for usage.
“This situation indirectly increases the travel duration from eight hours to 10 hours and even 12 hours to reach destinations,” he said.
He also urged the relevant ministry, agencies and air operators to consider increasing flight frequencies between towns in Sabah.
“For example, if there are two flights from Kota Kinabalu to Tawau, the frequency could be increased to three or four times or more,” he said.
He added that if this was implemented, incidents where passengers from towns with limited flights missing their connecting flights can be reduced.
Former Kota Kinabalu PBS-GRS candidate, Yee Tsai Yiew said the annual festive price increase by airline operators is nothing new, but it is high time such unscrupulous practices is put to a stop by the government.
Yiew said the Transport Ministry’s approval to increase flight frequency during festive season, should reflect in a more competitive ticket prices, but this does not seem to be the case currently.
“Air travel in Sabah and Sarawak is an essential service not a luxury, hence a need for the government to step in and put a ceiling to the airfare, especially during festive seasons to protect the passengers from being exploited,” she said in a statement yesterday.
“As such we call upon the Deputy Prime Minister for Sabah and Sarawak to voice out on these irresponsible practice by airline operators as this exploitive business nature has been going on for too long and the people of Sabah and Sarawak ultimately have to pay dearly to these unscrupulous operators,” added Yiew.
Previously only MAS and AirAsia served domestic routes hence the higher prices, but with more domestic airline operators servicing these routes such as Batik Air and MYAirline, prices during festive seasons should be more competitive.
If local airlines are unable to provide competitive pricing during festive season then government should consider opening the market to stop the monopoly, she said.
Yiew also suggested alternatively, maybe the time is right for the State government to initiate feasibility study on setting up its own airlines similar to what the Sarawak government has proposed to ensure air travel to Sabah remains affordable.