Monday, October 18, 2021

Malaysians eager to hit the road after green light for interstate travel

Airlines and bus companies expect demand to soar while highway authority braces for spike in traffic.

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Ticket sales and flight searches have been on the rise since Putrajaya lifted the restriction on interstate travel imposed early this year to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Mohamad Kaharrudin Salleh, president of the Malay Peninsular Malaysia Express Bus Operators Association (Pembawa), said there had been an increase in ticket bookings both online at at physical counters.

“At least 20 bus companies under Pembawa have recorded an average increase of 10% to 15%,” Kaharrudin, who owns Pancaran Matahari (M) Sdn Bhd, told MalaysiaNow.

“It’s possible that ticket sales will continue to increase seeing as permission to cross state borders was just announced on Sunday,” he added.

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said in a live address yesterday that those who have been fully vaccinated would be allowed to travel interstate from today onwards.

This permission does not apply to those in areas under enhanced movement control order.

Kaharrudin said the majority of travellers who had bought bus tickets were those who wished to return to their home towns or to Kuala Lumpur from other states.

He said bus operations would be increased as soon as possible to accommodate the numbers.

“Through Pancaran, we had 50 buses and about 100 drivers before the pandemic,” he said. “Now, only 50% of that number remains.”

Adding that the permission for interstate travel was welcome news, he reiterated that the group was prepared to boost bus operations.

“Before, we could only make maybe one trip but now this has increased to five, so the number of drivers will also recover,” he said.

Budget airline AirAsia meanwhile recorded a 140% increase in searches through its SuperApp application.

An AirAsia spokesman told MalaysiaNow the most frequently searched destination was Kuala Lumpur, followed by Langkawi, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Kota Bharu and Penang.

AirAsia CEO Riad Asmat said in a statement that the airline had upped its flight schedule to cover 61 flights to 16 domestic destinations following the prime minister’s announcement.

“AirAsia Malaysia’s weekly operations cover 63 flights from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi, Alor Setar (10), Kota Kinabalu (35), Bintulu (two), Kuching (10), Labuan (14) and Miri (four),” he said.

“Meanwhile, weekly flight operations from Kuala Lumpur to Penang are carried out 21 times and Kuala Bharu, 35 times, while operations to Kuala Terengganu and Tawau are conducted 28 times.”

He said the number of flight routes would be increased based on demand and subject to approval by the authorities.

Both he and Kaharrudin urged everyone to follow the SOPs in order to ensure the safety of all travellers.

Malaysian Highway Authority (LLM) director-general Mohd Shuhaimi Hassan said traffic volume is expected to increase to four million vehicles a day over the weekend and the Maulidur Rasul public holiday on Oct 19, compared to 3.5 million a day at present.

He said LLM had instructed its highway concessionaires to schedule maintenance work on weekends and public holidays and to avoid road closures, especially on the North-South Expressway, the KL-Karak Expressway, the East Coast Expressway and the Kajang Seremban Expressway.

“Careful preparations must also be made at toll plazas to ensure the smooth flow of traffic,” he said in a statement.

“Highway operators must also ensure that all rest stops along the highway are in good condition and in compliance with the SOPs.”

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