Friday, August 12, 2011

Sarawak tourism players fear new airline deal

SIBU: The swapping of shares between MAS (Malaysia Airlines) and AirAsia is creating a ‘turbulence’ of sorts among tourism players here, who fear that it may spell an end to zero or low fair offers.

Managing director of Equitorial Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd Robert Tan echoed concerns from members of the public that the deal, although set to revolutionise the airline industry, would give rise to a single dominant player in the market.

This, he opined would drastically reduce the bargaining power of consumers, a familiar scenario some 10 years back when MAS was the sole airline in the domestic market.

“We have been swarming with calls from members of the public since the strategic partnership was announced, voicing concern that the deal will break the current status quo.

“Many fear that with one dominant airline, it will give rise to monopoly. They are concerned that it is a step backward perhaps, into the last 10 years or so where MAS had a monopoly of the market.

“And if indeed that is the case, there is a likelihood that air travellers will no longer get to enjoy the low fare which they have benefited all these years,” Tan said when asked to comment on the deal between MAS and AirAsia.

The national flagship carrier and AirAsia have agreed to set aside their rivalry and work together after signing a share swap agreement on Wednesday.

The longtime (Equatorial) travel agent had a hunch that some changes in terms of fares were likely to take place in the next few months or so.

He said while the consolidation was seen as part of the preparations for the open sky policy come 2013, the needs of the masses must be taken into consideration.

Tan reasoned that if the existing pricing strategy was maintained, it would certainly be beneficial to air travellers.

“This is so because with lower air fare, more people will be encouraged to travel, and likewise, tourists will want to visit Sibu. Airline plays a crucial role in helping to promote tourism industry,” he said.

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