19 March 2020
MAHB says there are no restrictions on both international and domestic flight operations currently and any cancellation is at the discretion of the airlines
by RAHIMI YUNUS/ pic by ARIF KARTONO
CONFUSION reigns at the country’s main airport, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), as airlines are scrambling to make schedule changes in line with border closures for foreign travelers amid non-citizens entry ban.
According to the National Security Council (NSC), foreign travellers will be barred from entering the country except for those holding a diplomatic status, permanent residences and expatriates in essential services. But they must be quarantined for 14 days on a case-by-case basis under the Movement Control Order (MCO), which started at the stroke of midnight yesterday until the end of the month.
Malaysians are allowed to return home, but required to undergo a health check and quarantine for 14 days.
Checks by The Malaysian Reserve showed that many international flights were arriving at the KLIA and KLIA2 yesterday.
For instance, according to klia.com website, British Airways flight from London arrived at 3:46pm yesterday, similar to that of Emirates from Dubai (1:59pm), Qatar Airways from Doha (3:13pm), Air France from Amsterdam (3:53pm), Singapore Airlines from Singapore (5:30pm), Malaysia Airlines from Narita (5:43pm), Malindo Airways from Sydney (5:20pm) and Qantas Airways from Singapore (1:41pm).
At KLIA2, for example, AirAsia and AirAsia X flights from Honolulu arrived at 3:53am, Jakarta (8:07am), Perth (12:38pm), Melbourne (3:31pm) and Sydney (5:21pm).
It was not known how many of these passengers were in the exemption category, and what happened to those whose entries were denied, if any.
Flights that were cancelled yesterday included Emirates from Dubai scheduled at 8:30am, Qatar Airways from Jakarta (3:20pm), Singapore Airlines from Singapore (7:40pm), Malaysia Airlines from Seoul (10:20pm), AirAsia from Surabaya (12:30pm), AirAsia X from Denpasar (4:25pm) and Malindo Airways from Hong Kong (7:15pm).
Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) said in an FAQ that there are no restrictions on both international and domestic flight operations currently and any cancellation is at the discretion of the airlines.
The airport operator said transit and connecting flight passengers that do not require immigration clearance are allowed to board their flights. The company said inter-terminal (KLIA-KLIA2 or KLIA2-KLIA) transit will not be possible during the MCO period.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) said it has scaled down operations in light of the travel ban.
The national flag carrier said international flights to India are suspended from March 17 to 31, and the Philippines from March 21 to 31 following the respective governments’ ban on travel to and from Malaysia.
Before the MCO, the company has suspended services to Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Beijing Daxing and Kota Kinabalu to Shanghai due to border controls imposed and reduced capacity to Australia and New Zealand due to self-isolation policy of the two countries.
Group CEO Captain Izham Ismail said the situation has been fluid for the past two days that MAB had to make last-minute cancellations to abide by the restrictions.
He said the company’s global contact centre has received calls peaking at 25,000 and up to 2,000 emails daily in the past three weeks.
“The uncoordinated approach posed great challenges to our operations, but we are doing our best to re-route passengers via reallocation onto other carriers. This is an added cost to our operations,” Izham said in a statement yesterday.
He added that MAB is adjusting its low-load flights by cancelling and merging them to manage costs and has cancelled more than 4,000 flights.
Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd said in a statement on Tuesday that it has suspended international operations from March 18 to 31 following capacity cuts as a result of the MCO.
The company said it will continue to provide critical connectivity by operating domestic flights between KL and Kota Kinabalu; KL and Kuching; KL and Penang; and KL and Langkawi.
AirAsia Group Bhd also said on Tuesday that flights to both domestic and international destinations remain operational and are subject to further review, with strict compliance on the travel restriction as announced by the Malaysian government.