Stranded in Melbourne, Malaysians wait to be ‘rescued’ after KL flights cancelled

Malaysians in Melbourne have been told to wait until July to fly home.

PETALING JAYA: Many Malaysians who are anxious to fly home from Melbourne are complaining of financial and emotional stress because there are no flights to Kuala Lumpur.

Some have told FMT they were dismayed to learn from the Malaysian consulate in Melbourne they would have to wait until July to get a flight.

They said they were at first relieved that Malaysia Airlines (MAS) had scheduled a flight for May 25 but were crestfallen when the company decided to cancel it 20 minutes after making it available for booking.

They have been venting their frustrations through a Covid-19 quarantine support group on Facebook.

Perhaps the direst case is that of university student Ng, whose father has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung and brain cancer. Doctors have said he has less than three months to live.

Ng, who is from Ipoh, told FMT by email that he was willing to void his student visa, which expires in September, to be at his father’s side.

“Last Saturday, my father was admitted again as he was suffering from breathing difficulties,” he said. “I need to go back as soon as possible.”

He said he and many other Malaysians bought tickets for the May 25 flight as soon they learned it was available.

“But when we called MAS, we were told: ‘We are not sure if we can proceed. We need more people to buy tickets for this flight to proceed’.”

He said those who had bought tickets were told by email six hours later that the flight had been cancelled.

“The only other option is to fly Qatar Airlines but that will set me back RM10,000. I’ll have to fly to Qatar and then to KL, which will take about 24 hours.

“Looks like I have no choice but to borrow money from my friends to go back home. I feel ashamed and disappointed with my national airline.”

Another student, Emily Yeoh, said her experience was similar to Ng’s. She got the email about the cancelled flight 20 minutes after making her booking.

“I tried to ask for a full refund, but was told by Malaysia Airlines customer service that I can only be reimbursed with a flight voucher, which I need to use before June 30, 2021.

“While I understand that MAS is facing many challenges because of Covid-19, shouldn’t the airline be more thoughtful about making a flight available and not to cancel at the very last minute?

“I wonder why MAS would put this flight up for booking when it was unsure it would take off.”

She said she had earlier booked an AirAsia flight to KL slated for June 2, but that has been cancelled too.

“I am worried that there will be no flight available for the next two to three months, especially if Australia or Malaysia start to impose a lockdown again.”

Yeoh, who is on an exchange programme at Monash University until the end of July, said she could stay on only until the end of June as the rent for her residence would be due then. She said there was no use staying on in Australia since all classes have now gone online.

Foo Tun Xiang, another student, has started an “expression of interest” petition on Google Forms for the rescue of Malaysians stuck in Melbourne.

By 10pm last night, the petition had garnered the support of more than 80 people wanting to return to Malaysia.

Foo said he needed to return home to Petaling Jaya because his tenancy agreement expires in June. He said he booked a MAS flight for June 4 in February, when economy class tickets were going for A$700 (about RM2,000). But MAS cancelled the flight in April.

He said his family had been wanting him to return since last month.

“The biggest push factor is the security and safety offered by Malaysia to citizens and residents,” he said.

“Australia is offering the same to its citizens and residents and encourages international students to go back if they can’t support themselves.

“While I can support myself in the short term, returning home is a priority as I’ll be in more familiar territory. The cost of living is much lower.

“The University of Melbourne will make arrangements for students who can’t return to Australia for next semester.”

FMT has contacted Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and the foreign ministry for comment.

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