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Malaysia Airlines reveal why flight tickets cost a lot more than usual

[ UPDATE 11/06/2020 20:40 ]: Government has loosen social distancing rules for various forms of transportation. Airlines are now permitted to operate at 100% capacity. More details here.

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With interstate travel now permitted during the RMCO, many have found that air tickets are more expensive compared to the pre-MCO period. Malaysia Airlines has clarified that the recent air ticket price increase is due to reduced load factor for most of its flights.

In a statement released to Malay Mail, Malaysia Airlines shared that airlines drive optimisation of fares based on available capacity and demand. They added that the current fares reflect the current average load factor which is less than 40% for most flights.

Malaysia Airlines have announced in May that it is complying with the regulation gazetted by the Federal Government of Malaysia to ensure social distancing. As part of the SOP, any land, sea or air public transport is only permitted to carry not more than half of the total maximum capacity of passengers for each journey. This also includes ensuring an empty seat between passengers. The policy is also applicable to Firefly and MASWings.

Malaysia Airlines said that it welcomes the removal of social distancing as airlines would want to be able to price fares more competitively for the benefit of customers while balancing the need to cover the cost of operating the flight.

Flights between West and East Malaysia could cost more than RM2,000. At the time of writing, a return ticket for a direct flight from Kuala Lumpur to Miri is going as high as RM2,238.34 on Malaysia Airlines.

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Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has shared that the government is aware of the concerns raised by the public and the Transport Ministry is discussing with airlines to try to resolve the expensive flight tickets issue for domestic travel especially to Sabah and Sarawak.

The price increase isn’t just limited to airlines in Malaysia. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker has recently shared that everyone will have to pay more to travel and it depends on how well we recover from the pandemic. It will greatly depend on the number of passengers permitted on each flight. If regulators require social distancing, it depends on how social distancing is regulated and that will affect the rate of the price increase.

Although their premium business class cabins offer greater isolation, he shared that social distancing is challenging for economy seats on an aeroplane. He said social distancing regulations put a huge dent on the operating cost for airlines.

With the one empty seat rule, the load factor is reduced to 50%. If they implement more stringent distancing by keeping a row empty behind a passenger, airlines would only carry 30% of the total capacity of the aeroplane. With this arrangement, Qatar Airways would have to increase fares by over 300% to cover the cost of its operations and it is very difficult to achieve.

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Alexander Wong