MAB, AirAsia to increase capacity as demand soars

MAB records a 120% rise in flight bookings for local destinations, while AirAsia’s website experiencing a traffic growth of 170%


TRAVELLERS are beginning to throw caution to the wind with new-found confidence to fly again as airlines begin to record steady improvement in ticket sales and bookings.

Ticket sales recorded by national carrier Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) and low-cost airline AirAsia Group Bhd have more than doubled during peak periods in the past week, since the easing of restrictions for air travel within the country.

The government on June 7 announced the enforcement of the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO) from June 10 to Aug 31.

In an email to The Malaysian Reserve, MAB said the company recorded a 120% increase in flight bookings for local destinations compared to during the MCO period from March 18 to June 6, 2020.

“However, this is observed merely during peak periods, otherwise there is no significant pick up.”

MAB said the overall performance is still far off the average daily domestic ticket bookings prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, at approximately 70%.

In a statement last Wednesday, AirAsia announced its highest post-hibernation sale day, with 41,000 seats sold across the group in a single day, signifying a strong rebound in demand for air travel.

The budget airline group’s load factor averaged around 50% with AirAsia Malaysia hitting 70%, its highest load factor post-hibernation.

“AirAsia’s website is experiencing (a) traffic growth of 170%. Some of the most popular routes booked include Kota Kinabalu and Kuching to Kuala Lumpur for Malaysia, Bangkok to Chiang Mai and Hat Yai for Thailand, Manila to Puerto Princesa and Davao for the Philippines, Delhi to Srinagar and Bengaluru to Hyderabad for India and Jakarta to Denpasar and Medan for Indonesia,” the statement read.

AirAsia CEO Tan Sri Dr Tony Fernandes said the group’s recent innovative product for Malaysia, AirAsia Unlimited Pass which was introduced early this month, also sold out quickly.

He said the trend is expected to continue in the coming weeks with more destinations and markets to be rolled out soon.

Fernandes said currently AirAsia offers 20% off all seats for all flights in Malaysia.

The company aims to increase its flight frequencies to around 50% of the group’s pre-Covid-19 operations and resume all domestic routes in the coming weeks to cater to the increasing demand.

AirAsia is also looking forward to the reopening of international borders by the governments in the world to allow air transportation to resume, said Fernandes.

MAB echoed his view and stated that its forward bookings are expected to show an upward trend in the upcoming months as many travellers are planning for an early return to the skies for leisure or business travel.

“In the coming months, we will be gradually increasing flight frequency (for) domestic destinations to meet the demand in travel.”

The carrier will also resume some of its international flights in July to facilitate essential interstate travel, allowing the reunion of families who have been separated due to travel restrictions across the world with the aim to normalise schedules in October.

However, an industry insider observed that the price for air tickets are still high as some airlines are struggling to recover from losses during the travel ban period.

“Currently, flight tickets are still expensive like more than doubled from the normal period.

“It goes back to the old time when air transport is only eligible for those who have money, so not everyone can fly,” said the industry insider.

The Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) in its response said airlines are left with not much choice to sustain operations, while observing strict regulations due to the pandemic.

“As airlines make pricing decisions on a commercial basis, airfares would generally increase due to higher unit costs as there are fewer passengers allowed per flight.

“This is due to the limited supply of flights arising from capacity and frequency limits that were imposed on flights between Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsular Malaysia as part of travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Fewer passengers are allowed per flight in accordance with government’s regulations pursuant to the MCO,” a Mavcom spokesperson told TMR.

Mavcom undertakes daily monitoring of airfares as published on airlines’ websites for all domestic routes, except the routes under the Rural Air Services.

“In tandem with the commission’s goal to promote a commercially viable, consumer-oriented and resilient civil aviation industry, we recognise the need for industry players to take necessary measures to ensure sustainability.

“This is prevalent, now more than ever, as we face unprecedented circumstances.”