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By Karen Bong
KUCHING, Dec 1: The Federal and State Ministry of Transport have been urged to negotiate with airlines including Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia to implement fixed airfares and increase the number of domestic flights, similar to what had been done during the 2018 General Election to encourage and facilitate voters to fly home to vote in the coming 12th Sarawak Election.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) Sarawak potential candidate for Batu Lintang, Cherishe Ng pointed out there are about 250,000 Sarawakian voters in Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah and their votes are crucial in determining the next Sarawak government for the next five years.
This suggestion was raised following the exorbitant airfares to Sarawak of late, with a one-way ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching costing over RM1,000 in some instances.
“This (situation) will prevent Sarawakian voters living outside the State to fly home and exercise their democratic rights during this election.
“The Sarawak Transport Ministry has taken action to lower airfares by increasing flight frequencies but there are still overly expensive ticket prices,” she told reporters when seeing off Bayan Lepas MP Sim Tze Tzin at Kuching International Airport (KIA) here today.
Ng emphasised that Sarawak Disaster Management Committee (SDMC)’s action in controlling and restricting the number of flights into Sarawak also contributed to the soaring ticket prices.
Even with the gradual increase in flight frequency to Sarawak from 21 to 35 flights weekly currently following the easing of movement restrictions, she said airlines are still operating at half the capacity compared to pre-pandemic times where there were at least 65 flights.
“We hope to see a positive response from State and Federal governments, SDMC and airlines as well as continued control of the ticket pricing,” she added.
Meanwhile, the Bayan Lepas MP was among travellers slapped with sky-high airfares as his short visit to Kuching cost nearly RM3,000 with the Kuala Lumpur to Kuching sector costing RM1,388.94 and a return flight priced at RM1519.32.
“I already feel the pinch of the high airfare just to fly into Kuching, so imagine ordinary Sarawakian folks as many would not be able to afford this. RM3,000 is two-months worth of pay for ordinary people.
“This is a serious issue because it will prevent people from flying back to vote as it is their democratic right to choose their government that happens only once in every five years,” he said.
Sim added that the sky-high airfares are also hindering many from flying home to reunite with their families for Christmas after two years of travel restrictions due to the pandemic.
“I will raise this issue in Parliament today to urge the Federal government to intervene through the Ministry of Transport.
“We hope the government can correct this market distortion due to over-demand and low supply. There is something wrong somewhere.
“The MAVCOM (Malaysia Aviation Commission) must carry out investigations into what is causing the sky-high ticket prices. Hopefully we can get a clear answer from the Transport Minister Dato Sri Ir Dr Wee Ka Siong in the late afternoon today,” he added. — DayakDaily