KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 27 — Local low-cost airline AirAsia said the recent spike in its airfares, particularly to Sarawak, was because the number of flights to the affected destinations were limited.

AirAsia chief executive (CEO) Riad Asmat said the price of airfares rose as an effect of the reduced flight frequency to Sarawak due to limitations imposed by the Ministry of Transport Sarawak (MOTS) and Sarawak State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC).

“In abiding with the limited flight frequencies imposed by the SDMC resulting in a reduced supply of flight seats, AirAsia’s demand-based dynamic pricing mechanism has inevitably derived prices seen as unfavourable to buyers at this time.

“It must be remembered that this is also the same mechanism that we used to offer guests promotional fares from as low as RM99 one way earlier in October,” Riad wrote in a statement today.

He explained how fares are generally higher closer to the intended travel date, and especially during peak holiday periods, but assured that high uptake on upcoming flights should regulate the prices.

“Buyers have already taken up to 90 per cent of our capacity on most flights. The limitation on the number of flights available in the market is a key factor that has pushed the prices higher across all airlines,” he explained.

The airline also announced confirmation it received today from the MOTS and SDMC for the approval of 42 more weekly flights from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah into Sarawak, for the limited period between December 4, 2021, and January 5, 2022.

“This has brought the fares down from around RM1,000 one way to below RM200 for a Kuala Lumpur to Kuching flight and these were very quickly snapped up,” said the airline.

Riad added how AirAsia was flying more than 300 flights into Sarawak pre-Covid, with 12 to 15 daily flights from Kuala Lumpur into Kuching alone, a figure which he said has since been reduced to just five daily flights, or a reduction of 67 per cent.

“Many guests had been able to grab our low fares when we ran a special promotion at the end of October with flights from Kuala Lumpur to Sarawak selling from as low as RM99 one way.

“We comprehend that demand is there but at the moment we are unable to meet it until more flight approvals are given,” he added.

This comes as Sarawakians took to social media to complain of the exorbitant airfares to the Borneo state for travel dates in December.

This has stirred uneasiness among those looking to return home either to cast their votes in the December 18 Sarawak Elections, or to return home for the Christmas festive season.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong today also called on airlines to reduce their airfares willingly, without the need for government intervention, saying the high airfares was burdensome to Malaysians.

Wee had said how discussions between his ministry and the local airlines has taken place, with the government urging the carriers not overcharge for flights especially during the end-year holiday season.

This, Wee said, is also to avoid public perception that prices are being increased by airlines to recoup losses due to the pandemic.