KUALA LUMPUR: Airfares are expected to return to normal prices in November this year once airlines resume their operations to their full capacity, says Transport Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong.
Dr Wee said based on an analysis by the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom), the airfares are expected to return to its average pricing similar to 2019, come November.
He however said this is also entirely dependent on the situation during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Airline companies need about 18 months to recover for the domestic sector while international sectors would need three years to completely recover from the impact of Covid-19, he said.
Dr Wee said based on monitoring done by Mavcom for the period between June 2 and July 8 this year, the airfares from Peninsular to Sabah and Sarawak have shown a downtrend pattern compared to May.
"As for July, Mavcom found that airfares continue to show stability and is almost similar to the average pricing offered in 2019.
"For example, the ticket price for Kuala Lumpur - Kuching one way is between RM200 and RM400, compared to the price offered in June which was more than RM1,000," he said in reply to Lukanisman Awang Sauni (GPS-Sibuti) who asked for the action taken by the ministry regarding the expensive airfares between Sabah and Sarawak to Peninsular, and if a time frame has been set to return the airfare to its normal price prior to Covid-19.
Dr Wee advised people to make early plans and bookings and avoid last-minute ticket buying to enjoy cheaper airfares.
He said in a meeting held with Malaysia Airlines Berhad, AirAsia Berhad and Malindo Air in June, the companies were asked to reduce their airfares in line with the government's decision to exempt social distancing measures in the aircraft.
"However, the airline companies said that although the social distancing measure has been exempted, airfares do not necessarily decrease immediately.
"The airlines need to ensure there is continuous and stable demand before airfares can return to normal prior Covid-19," he said.
Meanwhile to a supplementary question, Dr Wee said that from January to June this year, a total of 169,728 international and local flights were cancelled by local airlines.
From that, 114,693 were domestic while 55,035 were international flights, said Dr Wee.
Due to the cancellation, Dr Wee said about 4.32 million passengers were affected during the period.
As for refunds, he said there were three categories, among which include postponing the flights to a different date, maintaining flight credits and thirdly, a complete refund.
Dr Wee said about 1.2 million people choose to postpone their travel dates, while 1.96 million passengers decided to retain the flight credit while 628,070 people got refunds.