KUALA LUMPUR: The cost of flight tickets to Sabah and Sarawak is expected to decrease following the lifting of travel restrictions, says Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong (pic).
"We hope that flight frequency and demand will increase, which will see prices of tickets coming down," he said when replying to a question raised by Dr Kelvin Yii (PH-Bandar Kuching) in the Dewan Rakyat on Tuesday (Nov 2).
Dr Wee cited an example where the Sarawak state government had now lifted the 90-minute separation period between flights for airlines to manage passengers.
With the buffer period imposed, flight frequency was affected, he said.
"With the latest move to do away with this condition, we hope the situation will (improve)," he added.
He said that the Sarawak government had recently allowed more flights into the state beginning Monday (Nov 1), from 89 flights a week to 223.
On a proposal by Ahmad Hassan (Warisan-Papar) to set ceiling prices for flight tickets to Sabah and Sarawak, Dr Wee said this was not possible.
He said that the Cabinet decided in 2006 to adopt a non-intervention policy with regard to decisions by airlines on ticket prices, among others.
However, he said the government would usually appeal to the airlines to lower ticket prices during festive seasons.
Earlier, Dr Wee said the Malaysian Aviation Commission (Mavcom) observed that most flights to Sarawak between Nov 2 and 8 recorded an increase in ticket prices from double to six-fold compared to 2019.
He said that this was due to flights to Sarawak being reduced by 86% compared to the pre-pandemic period.
As for Sabah, he said ticket prices had gone down between 30% and 62% between Nov 4 and 10, compared to 2019 fares.
He added that flight frequency to Sabah had also reduced by 49% compared to the pre-pandemic period.
Dr Wee urged the Sarawak and Sabah state governments to consider easing health protocols with regard to flights while rebuilding the people's confidence to fly again.
Meanwhile, at the Special Chambers in Parliament on Tuesday (Nov 2) afternoon, June Leow (PH-Hulu Selangor) asked Dr Wee about the construction progress of the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project.
Dr Wee said as of Aug 31 this year, the overall construction of the ECRL project had achieved actual progress of 23.96%, compared with the 25% completion target.
"There were slight delays due to the movement control order (MCO)," added Dr Wee.
Dr Wee said section C2 of the ECRL that begins in Gombak and runs through Serendah would solve ongoing rail transporting issues from the north to Port Klang.
Regarding progress on Section C2, Dr Wee said the Transport Ministry held more than 37 engagement sessions involving 17 departments and agencies from the Selangor state government and 12 agencies and departments from Putrajaya since June last year.
"This refined the proposed technical solutions on social and environmental issues faced by Selangor if the ECRL alignment is returned to the original alignment."
Dr Wee said in general, all agencies and departments at the state and Federal level had no objections to the proposal to return ECRL to its original alignment.
However, Dr Wee said the proposal to return the ECRL to the "northern alignment" still had not been approved by Selangor and the Transport Ministry would continue negotiations with the state government.
"The ministry understands that differences in decisions made by the state government and Putrajaya can impact the project in terms of time, whereby progress in Section C might be delayed for 12 months.
"MRL, the project developer, is expecting an 18-month delay if no decision is made by November this year."
Dr Wee also warned that delays over the matter will cost main contractors of the project to claim losses of RM1.25mil a day.
"On this matter, the Transport Ministry would continue negotiating with the Selangor government in order to find the best solution."
The "northern alignment", or known as Section C2, starts in Gombak and it goes through Serendah, Puncak Alam, and Kapar, before stopping at Port Klang.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Dr Wee said he was prepared to answer a question related to a Road Transport Department (JPJ) programme in Dewan Rakyat posed by GPS Tanjung Manis MP Yusuh Abd Wahab.
However, he said that he did not do so as Yusuf Abd Wahab was absent in the House.