IT's finally confirmed that Malaysia and Singapore will open up the long-protected Singapore-Kuala Lumpur air route to limited service by budget airlines.
According to The Straits Times, from Feb 1, at least one low-cost carrier from each side will be allowed to operate two daily flights - a total of four extra services a day.
The report said all restrictions on the lucrative sector will be lifted on Dec 1, 2008, to allow airlines on both sides of the Causeway to fly as often as they want between the two points. ST added that the liberalisation of one of Asia's most restricted air routes is in line with an Asean initiative to free up air links between capital cities of the 10-member bloc by December next year.
It's definitely a step in the right direction but will it make much of a difference to many long-suffering travelers of Singapore and Malaysia? For air travelers, they will see lower fare but will the cost saving be significant to the bulk of the passengers?
Budget airlines -- AirAsia of Malaysia and Tiger Airways of Singapore -- will put pressure on the national carriers but the bulk of the air rights are still lodged with the national carriers until the end of next year.
The provision for budget airlines of 16 daily flights a day represents 8 per cent of the current total number of flights between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore a week. According to the news report, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines operate about 85 per cent of the over 200 flights a week, charging about S$400 for a return flight that lasts 45 minutes each way.
As pointed out by Sophie's World earlier, what's more important is the fall in the average airfare for the sector, not the headline-grabbing lowest fare for a few early birds.