AirAsia said it has received confirmation from the Ministry of Transport Sarawak (MOTS) and the Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) for additional 42 weekly flights from Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah into the state for a limited period of Dec 4, 2021 until Jan 5, 2022.
This has brought the fares down from around RM1,000 one way to below RM200 for a Kuala Lumpur to Kuching flight and “these were very quickly snapped up,” the airline said.
In a statement, AirAsia also clarified its position with regard to the views and concerns expressed on social media that the airline is charging high fares for flights between Peninsula Malaysia and Sarawak for the upcoming Christmas and holiday season that coincides with the state election scheduled for Dec 18, 2021.
The airline said it has been continuously engaging the MOTS and submitted applications to permanently increase its scheduled flight frequencies from Peninsula Malaysia and Sabah into Sarawak on several occasions since early this year, including the latest request submitted last week which included the operation of extra flights for the upcoming holiday season, Christmas and Chinese New Year.
“As a low cost carrier, we are a volume business in order to pass on the lowest fares to our guests. AirAsia’s operation is all about economies of scale where we need to achieve a high passenger volume so that costs can be spread among a sizable number of passengers, allowing us to offer travellers low fares and giving them great value for money,” AirAsia Malaysia’s chief executive officer Riad Asmat said.
He said historically, the airline’s average fare for flights between Sarawak and Peninsula Malaysia has been around RM160 per one-way passenger. This takes into account the highest fares and the lowest, including “when we offer zero fare promotional sales.”
“AirAsia’s pricing model is similar to other airlines world over and is based on supply and demand. In abiding with the limited flight frequencies imposed by the SDMC resulting in a reduced supply of flight seats, AirAsia’s demand-based dynamic pricing mechanism has inevitably derived prices seen as unfavourable to buyers at this time. It must be remembered that this is also the same mechanism that we used to offer guests promotional fares from as low as RM99 one way earlier in October,” he added.
“As a general rule, fares will be higher, closer to the travel date and during peak holiday periods when our flights are already near full. Buyers have already taken up to 90 per cent of our capacity on most flights. The limitation on the number of flights available in the market is a key factor that has pushed the prices higher across all airlines.”
Capacity reduction due to restrictions by SDMC
For the record, AirAsia used to fly over 300 weekly flights into Sarawak pre-COVID, connecting Kuching, Sibu, Miri, and Bintulu to Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu and various other destinations in Malaysia.
For Kuala Lumpur – Kuching alone, it used to fly between 12 and 15 flights daily on the popular route before Covid, but with the latest approval today, AirAsia will be flying five daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kuching, which is a 67 per cent reduction in its capacity due to the restrictions by SDMC.
“Many guests had been able to grab our low fares when we ran a special promotion at the end of October with flights from Kuala Lumpur to Sarawak selling from as low as RM99 one way. We comprehend that demand is there but at the moment we are unable to meet it until more flight approvals are given,” Riad said.
Hence, AirAsia said it is appealing to MOTS and SDMC to also approve its request for extra Chinese New Year flights and to remove frequency restrictions on all the approved flights entirely to enable it to better manage cost efficiency and lower the fares for passengers.