Flight cuts, increased air fares distress Sarawak folk, says rep

Desmond Davidson

AirAsia has announced that it will discontinue the Sibu–Singapore and Singapore-Miri direct flights on February 21, 2024. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 23, 2023.

BUKIT Assek assemblyman Chieng Jin Ek said people in central Sarawak face a predicament with air fares spiraling upwards and flight frequencies going down along with the impending cut of AirAsia’s Sibu–Singapore direct flights.

The budget carrier announced that it would discontinue the thrice-weekly direct flights on February 21 next year.

The carrier will also discontinue its four-times-a-week Singapore to Miri direct flights on the same date.

The high air fares and flight suspensions require immediate attention and resolution, Chieng told the state assembly.

“This concern isn’t merely about travel convenience. It strikes at the heart of accessibility and fairness for our people,” Chieng said as he appealed to the federal Transport Ministry to intervene in the matter.

He said Sibu residents who found themselves at the mercy of these soaring fares were compelled “to bear the burden” of paying for them as air travel to Singapore and the peninsula was their only option.

“The impact of these soaring prices transcends inconvenience. It directly affects local tourism, economic growth, and the livelihoods of our residents who rely on West Malaysia travel for various necessities.”

AirAsia had cited low load factors, substantial losses, and global aircraft shortages as its reasons for shedding the Singapore–Sibu and Singapore–Miri flights.

Sarawak Transport Minister Lee Kim Shin on November 14 has since urged AirAsia to reconsider its decision and proposed the continuation of the routes with reduced flight frequencies.

The average load capacity of the carrier’s Singapore to Miri flights is 69% while it is 67% for the Singapore to Sibu flights.

Chieng said the counterproposal to reduce flights from four to two or thrice-weekly retains its relevance for businessmen and locals employed or studying in Singapore. – November 23, 2023. 

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