MIRI: The Sarawak Government is against the proposal by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to impose a fuel surcharge on air passengers to offset the increase in oil prices.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan Hong Nam said the cost of air travel within the state, between Sarawak and Sabah and between east and west Malaysia was already high.
MAS seems to always increase charges for passengers whenever oil prices rise, but never reduces these charges when the price drops, he said.
The increase in oil prices in the global arena is only a temporary thing. Oil prices fluctuate regularly. For MAS to just impose fuel surcharges and pass down this financial burden to passengers is not right. It is too simplistic an answer for the airline.
The cost of air travel within Sarawak, between Sarawak and Sabah and between east Malaysia and the peninsula is already high. To increase it further will burden the people, especially those who have to rely on air transportation regularly, he told reporters here.
Dr Chan, who is state Finance, Public Utilities and Industrial Development Minister, was commenting on the proposal by MAS to impose a fuel levy on passengers soon to maintain its operating margins in the face of rising oil prices internationally.
MAS chief financial officer Low Chee Teng had said in Kuala Lumpur that MAS would be following the move by foreign airlines such as Qantas Airways and British Airways to impose such surcharges.
Dr Chan said yesterday that it was unfair to expect air travellers to bear the increase in costs, especially in states like Sarawak and Sabah where air travel was a necessity and not a luxury.
People in the two states have to rely heavily on air travel to get from one town to another because of the distance and the lack of road connections due to geographical problems, he stressed.
MAS needs to explain to the people how much surcharge would be imposed, for how long, whether it is a short-term or long-term measure and whether these charges would be dropped when the oil price drops, he said.
Dr Chan hopes that MAS would exempt the Sarawak and Sabah sectors from these surcharges at the very least.
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