Confusing SOPs strike again: Sarawakian thrown off Perth-Kuching transit flight in KLIA for not doing RTK Antigen professional test

Eileen's tickets and luggage tags for her fights from Perth to Kuching.

By Ling Hui

KUCHING, April 9: At the very last minute, Eileen, a Sarawakian, was denied boarding and her luggage was unloaded at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) for not doing the RTK Antigen professional test after arriving from Perth.

As an international traveller transiting through West Malaysia to Sarawak, she had all the necessary pre-departure documents ready: negative RT-PCR results with two-day validity, pre-departure form submitted in MySejahtera, and a complete vaccination status.

On Friday (April 8), it was a smooth process from checking-in in Perth, boarding the 2.10am flight, arriving in KLIA at 8am, going through immigration check, until she entered the domestic boarding hall.

Right when she was about to board her 2pm flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching, she was asked to present her RTK Antigen professional test results which she did not have, and she claimed she never knew there was such a requirement.

Eileen said she had done her homework prior to the flight and it was not mentioned in the Sarawak Disaster Management Committee’s (SDMC) latest entering Sarawak guidelines that an RTK Antigen professional test must be done during transit.

She said from her understanding of the infographic pinned on SDMC’s Facebook page, the RTK Antigen professional test should be done within 24 hours at the first point of entry upon arrival in Sarawak, which in her case is Kuching.

So, she strongly believed that she did not have to produce an RTK Antigen professional test result in order to board her flight back to Kuching.

The Enter Sarawak guidelines on SDMC Facebook page that Eileen was referring to.

When she raised her concern at the boarding gate in KLIA, she was met with airline staff members who were similarly as confused and unfamiliar with the standard operating procedures (SOPs), which eventually wasted time and led to her being denied boarding.

“Even if I really understood the SOP wrongly, I could be informed earlier and I could still make it in time. They said the RTK Antigen test only takes about 20 minutes.

“At the boarding gate, when I was held back, I even asked the airline staff whether I should quickly run up to do the RTK since I still had time before take-off, but they said it’s fine.

“So, they contacted the supervisor and all that, and at the very last minute at 1.45pm, they unloaded my luggage and said I could not board the flight,” she told DayakDaily today.

Adding to her frustration, Eileen said she was offered by the same airline to top up another RM1,546 to purchase tickets for the next flight, which she thought was unfair and outrageous.

Disgruntled, she eventually went to another airline and booked a separate one-way flight, which flew her into Kuching only at 7pm when her original schedule was supposed to get her home at 4pm.

When asked about the procedure with the other airline, she said there was no checking of any documents and one of the staff members even suggested she fill in the EnterSarawak form which was already foregone.

With that experience, Eileen threw in a million-dollar question: “Isn’t this a loophole then?

“What if someone were to travel from overseas to KL in one flight, and take another domestic flight, who would know where they come from or how many days have they been staying in West Malaysia?”

Unhappy with the whole situation, Eileen said she wished to bring her episode with confusing SOPs to light so that actions could be taken by the authorities, especially for SDMC to produce accurate and clearer guidelines for airlines and related parties to be updated with the right information.

She also pointed out the inefficiency of SDMC’s public support. Amid the fuss with airline staff, she said she had texted SDMC through their WhatsApp number for urgent assistance, but she only got a reply at night after she had arrived in Kuching.

Just to clear things up, she queried the necessity of an RTK Antigen professional test in KL for her situation, and yet she received inconsistent answers.

“At first, the person said an RTK test was only needed in Sarawak airport. When I probed further, the person said an RTK test was needed for both KL and in Kuching. They made me do it another time today,” she fumed.

To avoid similar encounters in future, Eileen strongly urged for the refinement of guidelines when obviously, she is not the only person confused with the current SOPs. — DayakDaily