Don’t take advantage of festive season, PM tells airlines

We will not allow traders to take advantage of the festive season or fasting to pressure the people, says Ismail Sabri


AIRLINE companies are reminded not to make excessive profits by raising ticket prices to Sabah and Sarawak during the festive season, said Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob (picture).

He said based on media reports, the flight fares to both the states during this festive season increased by up to 500% during the festive season and described the increase as “extreme” because the people have no other alternative than to fly.

As such, the PM said he had asked Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs (KPDNHEP) Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi to investigate if there was any violation under the Price Control and Anti-Profiteering Act 2011 in the ticket price increase.

“The KPDNHEP must be firm against any party, no matter big or small company, that makes excessive profits under the law…immediate action must be taken to safeguard the interests of the people. We will not allow traders to take advantage of the festive season or fasting to pressure the people,” Bernama reported him as saying. Ismail Sabri said this in his speech when opening Pasaraya MG CoopMart, which is owned by Koperasi Pekebun Kecil Daerah Bera Bhd (Kopbera), and “Semarak Ramadan Keluarga Malaysia” sale for the Bera parliamentary constituency yesterday.

Also present were Entrepreneur and Cooperative Development Minister Tan Sri Noh Omar, Angkatan Koperasi Kebangsaan Malaysia Bhd president Datuk Seri Dr Abdul Fattah Abdullah and Kopbera chairman Tahzir Husain.

Ismail Sabri said he had also asked Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong to resolve the matter with the airline companies and that a meeting had been held among the parties involved.

The issue of the costly flight ticket to Sabah and Sarawak became a hot topic last week as the price displayed on the airline’s website was said to have increased up to RM2,000 for return flights, which is an increase of 566% compared to the usual price of about RM300 for the same trip.

Last Friday, Wee said he will investigate the validity of the complaints reported following the issue of the sudden increase in airfare prices between Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak for the upcoming Aidilfitri.

The minister said that the airfares on April 30, 2022 (peak travel date for the Aidilfitri festive season), have increased compared to the average airfares in 2019, as reported by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom).

This increase is due to several factors —increased operating costs, especially rising jet fuel prices, as well as limited resources for the airline to increase its full capacity.

Airlines are also having trouble increasing flight capacity immediately due to Covid-19; as well as the aircraft must go through a process of maintenance, repair and overhaul or MRO before being approved for service purposes; and because airlines need more time and replacement tools for operation readiness.

The dynamic pricing mechanism also uses artificial intelligence in the process of determining the fare price and not manually as claimed.

For April 2022, the frequency of flights to Sabah and Sarawak is still low at only 68% compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic).

Wee chaired a special meeting last Thursday involving the MoT, Mavcom, Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) and domestic airlines to find the best solution in addressing the problems and complaints.

“I have asked Mavcom and the airlines to immediately conduct a detailed and thorough investigation on the issue of the increase in air fares during this festive season,” he said.

“Mavcom, CAAM and Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd are ready to consider and approve the applications of airlines to increase the frequency of flights, the operation of air traffic control services, as well as extend the operating hours of the airport during this and upcoming festive season.

“CAAM has already approved the necessary extension of the operating hours of air traffic control services at airports. This will assist the airlines in planning for capacity additions especially ahead of the festive season,” he added.