SEPANG, Sept 16 ― The Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) here was abuzz with the chatter of masked travellers waiting to board the planes that will whisk them to the holiday island of Langkawi this morning.
After spending months cooped up at home under lockdown, these city dwellers were no doubt excited to fly away and spend a real proper holiday by the sea once more.
“We are so excited to finally travel for a short holiday. We want to take this opportunity to enjoy ourselves while we can,” Jackie Koh told Malay Mail when approached three hours to the departure time.
The 51-year-old was waiting his turn to take the required pre-departure Covid-19 test with his wife and 20-year-old son.
They had bought tickets for AirAsia's first flight of the day from Kuala Lumpur to the island, scheduled to leave at 9.50am.
Many travellers at the airport appeared to be couples, groups of friends and families travelling with their college-going children and dressed casually for their beach getaway. There were few families spotted with child adolescent-age or younger children.
Most of the group travellers were seen sporting only one carry-on baggage and one small luggage possibly to check-in. Couples were largely seen carrying only backpacks.
With today being a public holiday, many of the travellers appeared packed to spend an extended weekend on the island.
While it is advisable for passengers to arrive three hours before their scheduled flight, some travellers came more than four hours earlier.
Khadijah Riza Atiq who works in the financial sector said she was taking the opportunity to enjoy the plethora of travel promotions to the island with her friend.
“My friend and I decided to travel now and take advantage of all the travel promotion that is being advertised on the island. This way we can do our bit to help the local economy there while we are on a short holiday,” she said, her excitement palpable even underneath her face mask.
The 36-year-old related that her companion was so stoked for the trip that she made sure she was at the airport early even though their departure is only in the afternoon.
Another traveller heading to Langkawi told Malay Mail he and his friends counted themselves lucky to get on AirAsia’s first flight today as they had tried to book several other flights.
“We are so excited to get out of the city for a few days, just to experience a new environment and most importantly, seeing Langkawi’s blue waters.
“My friends and I tried our luck by booking several other flights to see which one we will get. We were lucky enough to get the first flight out to the island,” he said, declining to give a name.
Dylan Chan, 30, who was travelling with a college friend, said they were taking advantage of the travel bubble as a much-needed getaway was crucial for their mental health.
“We won't know if there is a possible lockdown in the future so we are taking advantage of the travel bubble now for a short break. It is also quite important as this can help recuperate our mental health,” he said.
Malay Mail understands the budget carrier has three flights from KLIA2 to Langkawi today ― the other two flights were scheduled to depart at 11am and 2.10pm ― and all were fully booked.
At the main KLIA terminal, flagbearer Malaysia Airlines and another budget carrier Malindo, were scheduled to have seven flights for Langkawi today.
Malaysia Airlines told Malay Mail two days ago that it had recorded full loads for its KUL-LGK flights for the weekends and public holidays ― like today ― after the Langkawi travel bubble was announced.
The island off the coast of Kedah on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia is the first holiday destination to reopen to tourists under the government’s National Recovery Plan.
The Langkawi bubble is a pilot project by the government before it decides on reopening other domestic destinations for holiday travel.
Entry to the island has been stepped up for holidaymakers aged seven and above. Potential travellers need to obtain negative test results — either through an RT-PCR or RTK-Antigent swab test — 48-hours prior to travelling and produce evidence of their results at predetermined entry points at airports and ferry terminals before continuing on their journey.
However, travellers can also purchase self-test kits for instant results prior to departure.
A Malaysia Airport Holdings Berhad (MAHB) official told Malay Mail that the Covid-19 self-test kits using saliva were available for sale at RM19 each.
She explained that both KL airport terminals could handle up to 160 passengers at a time for Covid-19 screening and that the average waiting for each passenger was between 20 and 25 minutes, including 15 minutes of wait time for the results.
From Malay Mail’s observation today, KLIA2 has eight Covid-19 screening stations.
The MAHB spokesman said that travellers who test positive for Covid-19 will be isolated immediately and processed according to procedure before being sent to the nearest hospital for treatment.
In preparation for the travel bubble to the Island, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry announced various ease of restrictions by allowing activities such as water sports, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing and activities on the beach.
The Langkawi Development Authority is also expecting the arrival of about 400,000 tourists over a period of three and a half months under the travel bubble programme. Of that number, 30,000 tourists alone are expected to arrive on the island by the end of September, with 2,000 expected daily arrivals.