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Sabah Air urged to fill vacuum
Published on: Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Labuan: The Government should heed the call of air travellers in Sabah and Sarawak to review the recently concluded collaboration between MAS and AirAsia because it had effectively ended any competition in the airline industry to the disadvantage of the rakyat."The two airlines now being partners in business seem now more interested in profits than in carrying out its corporate social responsibility role with emphasis on international routes," said Labuan Consumer Council (LCC) Chairman Fauziah Datuk Din.

She said when the alliance was developed through a share swap between the two airlines, concerns had been expressed by many that East Malaysian travellers would suffer but the Transport Ministry assured this would not be the case.

She said it turned out that the Government doesn't know best as not only flights between KL, Kuching, Labuan and Kota Kinabalu been reduced but the costs have also soared with KL-KK flights fetching up to RM700.

"And even this depends on availability of seats."

"I was told flights between Sandakan and Penang on AirAsia can go up to RM1,000 and this also is fully booked."

She said Firefly was becoming the public's favourite but was stopped altogether following the MAS-AirAsia collaboration.

"Adding to this, it was reported that four MAS direct international flights to Kota Kinabalu would be suspended from next year," she said.

"If nothing can be done, the other options are to either bring back Firefly or for Sabah Air to consider applying to serve the KK-Kuching-Labuan-KK route by leasing aircraft," she said.

She said air connections were important to Sarawak, Labuan and Sabah and the Transport Ministry should not lose its focus since its has been tasked to improve public transportation under the National Key Results Area.

"The subsidies given to MAS should now be questioned since the rakyat are not benefitting."

Fauziah said air travel on MAS used to be cheaper and convenient as the airline offered a choice of group fare, night fare, standby fare, student fare and other forms of fares. All these seem to have been withdrawn."

Unlike before no additional flights were mounted for the festive season and cost-cutting measures such as self check-in introduced at KL, despite paying higher fares.

Fauziah said air services needed an overhaul and the Transport Ministry should show its clout by playing the lead role.

Fauziah also pointed out that when AirAsia was allowed to fly the Sabah/Sarawak route it was stated that the airline would complement the services provided by MAS. "The alliance between the two clearly breached or deviated from the original objective."

As for the budget airline, Fauziah said there was nothing to crow about its offers of limited low fare seats periodically. There are plenty of hidden charges and travellers had to book sometimes months ahead.

"Not all could make it during the due date of travel.

There is also no food or drink provided on budget flights and the check-in at KL Low Cost terminal is messy and hardly passenger-friendly.

What is so great about the AirAsia offer," she asked.



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