For those in Sabah and Sarawak, Peninsular Malaysia seems like a distant foreign country.
The cost of airfares between the two is like flying to London or Paris. Post-Covid relaxations may have released pent up travel demand, but instead of cheaper travel, the price of tickets has hit the skies.
With the current fares, nobody can fly. If you do want to fly, do not bother going to KL. Fly to London or Paris and enjoy a new country. Have Hari Raya in Europe for a change.
Our leaders sitting in Putrajaya still do not get it even as we approach 60 years since the formation of Malaysia. Human connection and interaction do not only depend on 5G. Physical connectivity is just as important.
I am not going to get into the debate between transport minister Loke Siew Fook and Wee Ka Siong. I have experienced high airfares myself in recent months when booking return tickets for Kota Kinabalu-Kuala Lumpur. I can tell them both my own experience.
The first thing the leaders in Putrajaya need to do is to be humble and ‘turun padang’ (go to the ground).
The matter should not be politicised. Many families, separated by great distances, have not been able to see each other for long periods of time as air travel is their only means of returning home.
Booking tickets has become such a chore that I now gladly pay a travel agent to do the grunt work.
If our leaders have some time, they should go online and try to book tickets between the Borneo states and the capital city.
You need to spend all day in search of an affordable fare, and when do you find a RM350 fare on Airpaz – the common platform for airlines – and get excited about it like you found a gold nugget in desert sand, you will find it includes an eight-hour layover before you reach your destination.
If I book that ticket it will take me 12 hours to reach KL. A direct flight from Singapore to London takes 16 hours.
Going to McDonald’s is so much easier. The picture menu is so helpful. Click double cheeseburger, add on fries and drinks, pay, and hey, presto, enjoy your meal.
Get on Airpaz and you will be confused by choices between the different airlines’ offerings, but they all add up to thousands of ringgit upon checkout, unless you are prepared for a long layover or some odd hours.
Book directly with the airlines and you will find the fares cost almost the same.
News of Sarawak setting up its own airline is a godsend. Kudos to them. The two Borneo states need to take care of their own affairs and not depend on Putrajaya for every solution. When our Putrajaya leaders talk about Malaysia, they are only talking about the peninsula.
Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the distance from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur is 1,009 miles or 1623.83 km or 876.8 nautical miles. The flight time is two-and-a-half hours.
If the prime minister wants to unite the country, he should pay serious attention to physical connectivity as there will be political and socio-economic consequences if the matter is not addressed.
Due to lack of employment opportunities in their own state, more Sabahans are working in peninsula. Many come from the poorest regions in Sabah, where the poverty rate is the highest in Malaysia.
The high cost of air fares is an issue that crops up during every festive period, and exercising voting rights at general elections is not cheap.
Putrajaya should focus not just on the transportation woes in the Klang Valley but also on the air connectivity between the two points across the South China Seas.
There was a time when we had Feri Malaysia. Everyone who went on Feri Malaysia with his own vehicle had the adventure of a lifetime. It would be nice if we can bring our own vehicles to tour the whole of Malaysia and make new friends, without worrying about the high cost of airfares.
Take a drive from Kota Kinabalu to Kundasang, our world heritage site. Drive onwards through the many districts with the highest poverty rate in Malaysia, and then on to Sandakan.
While at it, count the number of potholes along every square metre of this single lane road which has very few overtaking lanes. Good luck if you end up behind a truck overloaded with goods and climbing a steep incline.
This is a major trunk road that carries everything between Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan – new cars, frozen foods, dry provisions, and other essential items. The cabotage policy makes land transport a viable option.
The journey is a rollercoaster ride which even seven-time Formula 1 champion Lewis Hamilton would find hard to navigate, even at low speeds. It is more like a world rally championship over potholes. The poor roads are accident prone and cause much damage to vehicles.
Putrajaya still does not understand why Sabah and Sarawak have the highest number of 4WD pick-ups in the country. The bad state of our roads makes it a common sight to see East Malaysian women driving 4WD pick-ups to send and fetch their children from schools and run household errands.
Let us not score political points over an important matter like public transport. Instead, let’s deliver the promises of the ‘Madani’ government.
Anwar’s Madani motto should be, “now everyone can fly – cheaply.”
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.