Disabled persons and the elderly can breathe a sigh of relief with the announcement that Malaysia Airlines will maintain the discounted airfare for these two categories of passengers. Both categories are accorded a 50% discount for all domestic flights.
I have been commuting between Penang and Kuala Lumpur frequently lately. Flying is the only convenient mode of transportation when I am travelling alone. Getting up and down an express bus is a hassle in addition to the time spent immobile inside it.
Although it is more expensive to travel by air, the journey from the Penang International Airport to Kuala Lumpur International Airport and finally to Stesen Sentral Kuala Lumpur is barrier-free. The various services provide staff to assist me from the moment I check in at Penang up to the time I get out of Stesen Sentral. Until a time when express buses become accessible or high-speed trains are in service, I will continue to travel by air. The extra that I have to pay as compared to an express bus or train ticket is worth the convenience many times over.
By WONG SAI WAN
KUALA LUMPUR: Domestic travellers, particularly the disabled and senior citizens, will continue to get discounted domestic fares on Malaysia Airlines.
The discounted domestic fares on the national carrier due to be discontinued from Aug 1 will go on following a Cabinet decision two weeks ago.
The Cabinet also ordered the national carrier to fly on three more domestic routes – Johor Baru-Kuching, Kuala Lumpur-Tawau and Kuala Lumpur-Sandakan as part of its new aviation policy.
This development is good news for travellers in general as it would mean an open competition between MAS and AirAsia, thus causing fare prices to drop, although the low-cost carrier is unhappy about the decision.
The Government reversed an earlier decision to impose a minimum floor price on MAS for its 22 domestic routes from that date as part of the rationalisation of the domestic routes to allow AirAsia to take over the bulk of the local flights.
Previously, under the Feb 27 agreement between the two airlines, MAS was not allowed to sell its tickets below certain prices and the national carrier even announced that it was withdrawing all its special discounted fares from Aug 1 including the popular supersavers as well as the disabled and senior citizen discounts.
If the decision had stayed, the disabled, senior citizens, members of the security forces and students would have to pay full fare to travel within the country if they chose to fly by MAS.
These special groups used to enjoy a 50% discount of the normal fare. The supersavers fare also gives out a similar discount but was only available during lean periods when air travel was low.
It is reliably learnt that these discounts will now be maintained with this latest decision.
In a statement issued yesterday, the national carrier said it had received a letter from the Transport Ministry informing it of the latest decision.
“The additional three routes are re-instated because all these routes have high international traffic and/or high business class passengers.
“Recently, it was reported in the media that Johor and Sarawak had appealed to the Federal Government to allow MAS to fly the JB-Kuching route. This would provide a genuine choice for customers to choose to fly either via MAS or AirAsia,” the airline said.
MAS managing director/CEO Idris Jala welcomed the latest move by the Government, as it would give MAS a greater flexibility in fixing its domestic prices.
However, the latest decision will not sit well with AirAsia, which sees the floor price as a means of keeping the competition fair between the two airlines.
Last Friday, AirAsia CEO Datuk Tony Fernandes said the floor price needed to be maintained as MAS received a RM1bil subsidy from the Government and the funding made it an unfair competition if MAS did not adhere to a minimum floor price.
In response to the budget airline’s claim, MAS executive director and chief financial officer Tengku Azmil Zahruddin said the national carrier did not get any subsidy from the Government.
“Let me make it very clear that under the new domestic aviation policy, MAS does not receive any subsidy or any other form of assistance from the Government for any part of the domestic business.
“Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd is paying compensation of RM650mil to MAS in line with the contractual terms of the domestic agreement under the Widespread Asset Unbundling Agreement. This is not a subsidy but a one-off contractual obligation. We are using the funds to restructure the business, as this has become necessary as a consequence of terminating the agreement.”
Source: The Star Online