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Hopes ride on Loke to resolve flight delays, cancellations

Air passengers are hoping that the transport minister will be able to solve the problems faced since the start of the pandemic.

Azzman Abdul Jamal
3 minute read
Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook visits the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre in Sepang on Dec 12. Photo: Bernama
Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook visits the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre in Sepang on Dec 12. Photo: Bernama

Flight delays and cancellations in addition to long-standing applications for refunds are among the challenges that Anthony Loke Siew Fook faces in his return to familiar ground at the transport ministry. 

Loke, who was sworn in with the rest of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet on Dec 3, so far appears to be concentrating on land transport, especially matters concerning the LRT lines. 

While he touched on flight operations in announcing the implementation of the standard instrument departures and standard terminal arrival routes systems to be implemented by the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM), this did not involve the issue of passenger rights. 

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, aviation expert Germal Singh Khera said it was too early for Loke to examine the issue in depth, given that he had only been announced as Anwar's transport minister on Dec 2. 

For now, he said, Loke might be prioritising other issues such as public transport on land which would have a bigger impact on users. 

"He might also be of the view that Mavcom and CAAM can handle aviation-related problems, allowing him to solve other issues first," he said. 

"In fact, this aviation-related issue is actually in Mavcom's line of sight, with the agency proposing several amendments to the Malaysian Aviation Consumer Protection Code."

Air transport entered the limelight in early 2020, with the spread of Covid-19 on a global scale. Many countries closed their borders as part of efforts to keep the infection at bay, bringing international and, at times, domestic, flights to a halt. 

In Malaysia, the decision to reopen the borders was made in April this year. While many tourism-related activities resumed in the wake of the government's announcement, the problem of flight cancellations continued. 

Many AirAsia and AirAsia X passengers complained of problems with refunds for flights cancelled as far back as 2020, while others voiced hope that the transport minister would intervene. 

Mohd Faiz Mustaffa, for example, has had flights cancelled by AirAsia four times over the past two years. 

The first two times this happened, he thought nothing of it as the country was still battling the spread of Covid-19. 

But he experienced the same problem even after the borders were reopened in April, when AirAsia cancelled his flight scheduled for November to Bandung, Indonesia.

After this case went viral on social media, AirAsia offered him a replacement flight on another date, but this, too, was cancelled in October. 

"I am very disappointed," Faiz said. "It should not be like this."

His only consolation is the fact that he managed to get a refund in cash on Oct 20. 

Filipino Christian Echica, however, has not been as fortunate. 

Echica had a round-trip ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Cebu, scheduled for Dec 25, and had been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family. 

However, the flight was postponed to another date and eventually cancelled altogether. 

Echica said he received an email on Nov 9 informing him that his flight had been cancelled. Until today, though, he has yet to receive a refund whether in cash or credit form. 

His initial ticket cost RM1,872. 

"But because I was forced to buy another ticket for a flight with Philippines Air, I paid another RM1,718," he said. 

Echica, who has flown with AirAsia back and forth from the Philippines since 2014, said this was the first time he had had such an experience. 

He tried using AirAsia's chatbot Ava but eventually gave up. Instead, he began emailing AirAsia nearly every day, asking for a response about his refund.

Both he and Faiz voiced hope that the government or authorities would take note of the issue and intervene on behalf of the passengers.