Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong has called Malaysians to be patient in waiting for local airlines to lower ticket prices
In a Facebook post on Thursday, 11 June, Wee said he met with representatives of Malaysia's major airline companies to discuss the revival of the country's aviation industry.
Meeting with Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, and Malindo Air, he said that the companies have been under tremendous financial pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact.
"[The airlines have been] experiencing as low as a 97% drop in passenger volume. Without passengers, their expenses continue to push them to the verge of bankruptcy," he wrote, while urging the public to give them more time to normalise ticket prices.
Wee released the statement after Malaysians eager to travel took to social media to complain about overpriced domestic flights
While the government allows interstate travel under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), deciding whether to book flight tickets or not has been an impossible decision for many given the sky-high prices.
Several netizens have highlighted how flight prices between Peninsular and East Malaysia were coming up to RM2,000 to fly both ways.
"There's no way I can fly home, flight tickets are too expensive," said freelance journalist Norman Goh, who shared that a return trip from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching on Malindo Air and Malaysia Airlines would cost him over RM2,450.
Another Twitter user shared that AirAsia was also offering flights amounting to RM2,210 for a return trip from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching.
Meanwhile, this netizen's post went viral for questioning the local airlines if the doubling and tripling of the airfares was fair to their consumers, despite understanding that the companies had to cover their losses.
The public outcry was further amplified when Malaysian satire Facebook pages posted viral memes making fun of the issue
"Why so expensive? I can fly to Indonesia with a price like that," questioned one out of almost 2,000 Facebook users who commented on this post by Himpunan Cerita Lawak.
Meanwhile, SarawakGags' meme was shared over 10,000 times on Facebook. The page gave new names to Sabah and Sarawak according to the locations they could normally travel to at such high airfares.
In the response, Wee said that the airlines are trying their best to set reasonable fares as to not burden their customers
The Transport Minister explained that the airline companies are hoping to lower their fares, especially once all flights, domestic and international, are allowed to operate without the need for social distancing.
As quoted by Malay Mail, Malaysia Airlines had earlier clarified that their hiked ticket prices were because they could only take 40% of their usual load of passengers to enforce standard operating procedures.
According to Wee, the airline companies instead encouraged the public to book flights as early as possible, preferably two to three weeks prior to departure, to ensure that ticket prices would be cheaper than if bought within a short notice.
AirAsia has introduced a RM399 pass to allow people to fly as many times as they want within the country: