Malaysia Airlines on Tuesday launched an air pass offering sharp fare discounts for travel within Southeast Asia in a bid to fill up its planes and spur tourism into the country.
The flag carrier plunged into the red in the first quarter, hit by a triple blow of overcapacity, fuel hedging losses and the global economic slump which hurt passenger and cargo demand. Managing Director Idris Jala said business has improved in the second quarter with the average percentage of seats filled rising to 67 percent in June and 76 percent in July.
This was higher than 56 percent recorded in the first quarter.
He said the pass scheme would be an added boost to business as more people are opting for short-haul travel amid the economic crisis and the swine flu pandemic.
The pass offers a set of four prepaid one-way tickets for $229 for economy class and $729 for business class, inclusive of fuel surcharges and other fees. Travelers pay separately for airport taxes.
The tickets are valid for three months and can only be used for travel from Kuala Lumpur to a destination within the countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or vice versa, Idris said.
“It’s a massive discount (on fares). Kuala Lumpur will be the base and hub, so it will bring a lot of tourists to Malaysia,” he told reporters.
The airline is targeting at least 2,500 new passengers each month under the scheme, he said.
Ong Hong Peng, secretary-general of the Tourism Ministry, said travel within Southeast Asia remained resilient with tourist arrivals rising more than 15 percent last year to more than 70 million.
Travelers from the region accounted for 78 percent of foreign visitors into Malaysia last year, he said.
Malaysia is however, bracing for fewer tourists this year with arrivals expected to drop to 19 million, from 22 million last year, he said. – AP
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