MATTA: Ticket prices a factor in domestic flight bookings

PETALING JAYA: While the resumption of domestic flights will facilitate the recovery of domestic tourism and the broader economy, the uptake by customers will depend a lot on the pricing, said the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).

Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang said domestic flights were an alternative to land transportation for people travelling within Peninsular Malaysia, while Sabah and Sarawak would benefit from the increased air connectivity.

While cheering the lifting of the ban on interstate movement, Tan is worried that there will be a hike in airfares due to Covid-19-related operating requirements.

"We are concerned that there could be an increase in airfares post-Covid-19, making air travel non-competitive again against a backdrop of global recession. We ask local airlines to review fares by taking into consideration fuel prices which have declined globally."

On the broader tourism and travel industry, Tan said the stakeholders, which include the aviation sector, hotels, land transportation companies and related sub-sectors, had prepared comprehensive health and safety protocols to ensure frontliners and customers were protected.

"We are well prepared to revive domestic tourism and urge the government to look at the gradual opening of borders with countries that have low risk, and this should be done in June or early July, rather than waiting to assess on Aug 31.

"While we acknowledge that health and lives are paramount, decisions should also be practical and based on other valid factors," he said.

He added that the industry also hoped that restrictive conditions imposed by the Sabah and Sarawak state governments could also be lifted.

Kenzar Travel & Tours Sdn Bhd general manager Madelina WL Kuah said the cost of flights under the new norm would likely go up, with a return ticket to London now costing about RM8,000.

"Domestic flights to Sarawak and Sabah are still very expensive.

"Due to social distancing requirements, I foresee a 20% to 35% rise in ticket prices for flights to Sarawak and Sabah, depending on flight schedules," she said yesterday.

As for travelling in tour buses, Kuah said the cost was also likely to increase as buses could only take 20 passengers instead of the usual 40. 

Putting cost aside, Kuah said there was a huge pent-up demand for international travel, adding that she received a lot of calls from customers asking if they could now travel abroad.

"A lot of people can't wait to travel again. This includes those in the corporate sector who need to fly for business purposes."

Kuah, who is former Melaka Tourism Association president, added that there was still some ambiguity over international travel.

"They may be able to buy their tickets but the question is whether they will be allowed entry into the country they are flying to," she said, adding that many Malaysian students who had returned home from abroad recently would want to fly back to their respective universities in September.

Yesterday, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said students might be given permission to return to their respective universities, subject to approval by the Immigration Department.