19 March 2020
Local and foreign air travellers yesterday discovered that their flights were cancelled, forcing them to seek alternative options to get to their destinations following the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO).
A list of Frequently Asked Questions from the Transport Ministry yesterday clarified that no travel restriction had been imposed by the government on airline companies covering domestic and international sectors for the time being.
But a check at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) departure hall yesterday showed many scheduled flights had been “cancelled”.
Zahid Rahim, 30, said he was moved to a 12.30pm flight yesterday after his original flight to Kota Kinabalu at 11pm the same day was cancelled at the last minute.
“I rushed from the city centre to the airport, but only arrived at 11.30pm and I was not able to check in.
“The ground staff told me that many flights had been cancelled, and that I had to try for the 2pm or 4pm flight back to my hometown.
“I have been in line for over two hours, and I’m nowhere near the check-in counter.
“The line’s just too long and it’s moving very slowly,” he said when met at KLIA yesterday.
The travel agency owner, who makes monthly work trips to the city here, said he would voluntarily go under home-quarantine when he returns.
“Thankfully, there aren’t any restrictions on Sabahans to return, but I will make sure that I self-isolate myself for 14 days.
“I have a 2-year-old child at home, so I wouldn’t want anything to happen to my daughter.”
Dutch tourists Ger Dijs, 28, and Carlijn Baarda, 22, said they were about to board a flight to Maldives via Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday before being told that their flight was cancelled.
Dijs said they were informed about the flight cancellation at the boarding gate.
“With the Covid-19 virus outbreak around the world, all we wanted to do is go back to Amsterdam via Turkish Airlines.
“We managed to get seats for a flight at 11.40pm tonight. We’ve heard that many flights were cancelled, so we’re hoping ours would go on as scheduled.”
Baarda, who had been backpacking across Asia for the past month, said they originally planned for a trip to Sri Lanka before changing it to the Maldives.
“But now, we are going home to to Amsterdam instead. We don’t want to risk our health and safety with the virus spreading,” she said.
French national Jeanne Burle, 28, said she booked a flight back to France as soon as she heard about the worsening outbreak.
Burle said her flight was scheduled for 7pm on Emirates Airline, transiting via Dubai to Paris, but did not receive confirmation on the status of her flight.
“We learnt that they are closing the French and European borders soon, so we’re hoping that we get to fly home soon.
“There aren’t any restrictions on French nationals returning, but it’s just a bit complicated because so many flights have been cancelled,” she added.
A total of 841 Malaysians are now stranded in 20 countries around the world as a result of the travel restrictions imposed to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
This was revealed by Deputy Foreign Minister Datuk Kamarudin Jaffar in a statement yesterday.
India recorded the highest number of stranded Malaysians at 274, followed by Uzbekistan (209) and Morocco (160).
Forty-three Malaysians are stranded in Egypt followed by Saudi Arabia (28) and Bangladesh (26), Sweden (26), Spain (19) Austria (11), Montenegro (8) and Finland (8), Ukraine (7), Switzerland (5), Norway (5), Maldives (4), Poland (3), Hungary (2) Lithuania (1), Panama (1) and Ecuador (1).
“All Malaysians stranded were provided with consular services. This includes advice on matters regarding temporary accommodation, alternative flight routes and other assistance.
“We have managed to bring 116 Malaysians back home. A total of 113 of them were from Morocco while another three have been repatriated from the Maldives.”
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein earlier said the MCO did not bar Malaysians from re-entering the country.
Hishammuddin said this following a viral video of an officer from the Indian authorities telling Malaysians stranded in Tiruchirappalli International Airport in South India that the nation barred its citizens from going home.
“We are asking the stranded to remain calm and keep in contact with the Malaysian mission as well as prevent the spread of Covid-19,” added Kamarudin.
He urged Malaysians to register with the nearest Malaysian mission as soon as possible.