Tourism groups back domestic airline fare cap, but doubts of growth remain

PETALING JAYA, April 3 — Tourism associations have welcomed the proposal to cap domestic airline fares, despite concerns that it could stunt the local aviation industry.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association organising chairman Uzaidi Udanis said it is inevitable that the high demand for domestic flights has resulted in fares reaching ridiculous prices.

“Ideally in a free-market environment without intervention from the government or other regulatory bodies, the fares would reflect public demands. But in some cases it becomes excessive,” he told the Malay Mail.

Uzaidi cited a recent day trip he made to Kota Baru, which cost him nearly RM1,000.

In comparison, he said making trips to regional countries cost less.

“We would not want to deter the growth of the industry since low returns would prevent them from expanding, but at the same time the need to be fair to customers is understandable even though Malaysia’s domestic prices are still comparatively reasonable than other (Asia-Pacific) countries,

“There must to be some form of mechanism to deter high ticket prices, although I am not sure how this will be implemented. Overall, it would not be a bad idea for the government to provide some degree of regulation, especially if it ensures people can afford to travel back and forth from the Peninsular to Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

Meanwhile the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents fully supported the move, stating the ‘astronomical’ high fares were burdensome on the public and further suggesting the cap should be between 1.5 to 2.0 on average.

“Air travel is not a luxury but an essential service for travel between the Peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak.

“More affordable airfares across the South China Sea would be welcome news for those that return to celebrate with their families, relatives and friends,” said president Datuk Tan Kok Lian in a statement.

He added high domestic fares have driven away many Malaysians to overseas destinations flying on cheaper airfares, citing an example where the return air fare for a Kota Kinabalu-Kuala Lumpur trip can range from RM500 to RM2,900, depending on the season and seat availability based on the reservation booking system.

“Airlines should review their pricing strategy during low and high periods so as not to victimise passengers travelling during peak seasons, since they have various classes and fares based on their Reservations Booking Designator to maximise revenue,” Tan said.

He also recommended that authorities including the Malaysian Aviation Commission and the Malaysia Competition Commission closely monitor the airlines to ensure cartels are not formed nor prices driven up during the peak seasons.

This comes after Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Ab Aziz Kaprawi said seasonal increases would be set at a maximum of 2.5 times higher than average for domestic routes.

Among the reasons Ab Aziz cited for the proposal, set to be introduced in the middle of this year, is to be fair for Sabahans and Sarawakians working or studying in the Peninsular who sometimes are unable to afford the trip back home during festive seasons.