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For some, surging ticket prices mean no way home to vote

Ticket prices for a number of airlines have risen sharply, leaving many unsure of whether they will be able to make it back to their home towns for election day.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
3 minute read
Passengers wait for a flight to Kuala Lumpur at the Kuching International Airport.
Passengers wait for a flight to Kuala Lumpur at the Kuching International Airport.

Voters living far from home have voiced concern over the increase in ticket price for flights following the announcement of dates for the 15th general election (GE15) next month. 

The Election Commission (EC) said on Oct 20 that the nomination of candidates would be held on Nov 5, with early voting to begin on Nov 15.

The election day itself has been fixed for Nov 19.

Checks of budget airline AirAsia's website following the EC's announcement found that the price of two-way tickets from Kuala Lumpur to both Sabah and Sarawak on the day of the election had spiked.

As of 6pm on Oct 20, the price of a round trip from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu between Nov 18 and 20 ranged from RM395 to RM683 for a single passenger, across a number of airlines. 

This marks a sharp increase from the price range of RM202 to RM573 for flights between Nov 4 and 6, just two weeks before voting day. 

This is counter to the norm in which the price of airline tickets generally rises the closer they are purchased to the date of the flight. 

Meanwhile, a two-way flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching between Nov 18 and 20 costs anywhere from RM328 to RM594 – up from RM162 to RM594 for the period of Nov 4 to 6. 

The surge in ticket prices has sparked dissatisfaction, with many taking to social media to accuse airlines of taking advantage of those who must travel to their home towns to vote. 

Others are urging airlines including AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines to reduce their ticket prices so that voters, especially those from Sabah and Sarawak, will have an easier time getting home for election day. 

Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong recently said the Malaysian Aviation Commission would regulate the prices of flight tickets  to ensure that airlines do not hike prices arbitrarily ahead of GE15. 

"Based on the dynamic pricing mechanism for any airline in the world, the earlier it (the ticket) is booked, the cheaper it is and the closer to a date or event, the price will be higher," he said.

Syamim Arshad from Bintulu said he was not surprised by the increase in ticket prices as such things happened every time an election was called. 

Nevertheless, he disagreed with it, saying it was only adding to the burden of the people. 

"If ticket prices rise because it's a holiday, that's fine. It's the people's choice whether to buy or not."

But the 34-year-old, who has lived in Kuala Lumpur since 2017, said that going home to vote was a necessity. 

"It's our duty as citizens," he said. "Those who wish to carry out their responsibility to vote have no choice in the matter." 

He himself is unsure if he will be able to return to Sarawak to vote. 

"I went back to vote at the 14th general election in 2018," he said. 

"But this time, I'm not sure. And with all of the political upheaval lately, I don't even know which party to vote for.

"I feel like it might not be worth it to return to vote this time." 

Universiti Malaysia Sarawak student Syahirah Azhar said the increase in ticket price was more than her budget allowed. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Syahirah, who would be casting a ballot for the first time, said it was highly likely that she would not be able to return to her home town in Negeri Sembilan. 

"The last time I flew from Kuala Lumpur to Kuching was on Oct 6," she recalled. 

"My ticket then cost me more than RM300. I don't think I'll be able to go back this time because I don't have enough money." 

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