Community airline begins silent cancellation, leaving passengers and tour operators fuming
By YU JI
This is ahead of Firefly’s rumoured pullout from the state by end of October.
The Star learnt that at least one Kuching-Kuala Lumpur flight was cancelled late last night, with passengers put onboard a MAS flight instead. The unannounced move has left more than a few ticket holders unhappy.
“My Kuching-KL flight yesterday evening was cancelled after I booked it online just a few days earlier,” said Ng CH in an e-mail.
“I read in newspapers about the possible cancellations. When I checked (with Firefly), I was informed my flight had indeed been cancelled. They transferred me to a MAS flight, which was departing at about the same time.”
A senior MAS official confirmed that Firefly flights involving Sarawak without enough passengers, “to break even financially”, were being cancelled.
“The standard operation procedure is like this: When a last minute cancellation occurs because of too few passengers, then, preferably, affected ticket holders will be placed on the next Firefly flight. But when the (departure) time is too far apart, a FIM will be issued,” he explained.
FIM is an aviation terminology for “Flight Interruption Manifest”. It is normal for airlines to issue FIMs, especially among affordable airlines.
“Once the FIM is issued, passengers can be put onboard MAS,” the official added.
The Star was unable to determine how many of Firefly’s Kuching-KL-Kuching flights have been cancelled, or how many will be cancelled in the coming weeks.
Of the four Kuching-KL flights listed on Firefly’s website for today, only two evening flights are priced and with tickets bookable online.
For tomorrow, Firefly has three Kuching-KL flights on sale. For Sunday, five are on sale; but for Monday, there are only three flights again. Efforts to contact Firefly for comments on its scheduling were unsuccessful. Talk of Firefly being downsized surfaced after the MAS-AirAsia share swap deal was announced in August.
During Firefly’s peak around mid-year, the airline was flying multiple daily flights between Kuching-KL, Kuching-Johor and Sibu-KL. It had a reported load factor of 70%.
But Firefly is now all but certain to cease flights from Sarawak and Sabah to Peninsular Malaysia by the end of October. On Malaysia Day on Sept 16, the Kuching-Johor sector became the first Firefly route to be axed.
According to the MAS official, it was very likely all three Firefly routes involving Sarawak would be terminated by Oct 31.
He said this had “more or less been confirmed internally (with MAS and its subsidiaries)”, pending an official public announcement.
The public and travel agents have reacted unfavourably to the developments. Travel agents were unhappy about Firefly’s “silent cancellations”.
Although Firefly tickets are still available for purchase, tour agents have by and large stopped putting customers on board those flights.
Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) Sibu chairman Frankie Ting said his customers had been advised to only purchase AirAsia tickets.
“There’s only two Sibu-KL options: There’s Firefly, which we are not buying anymore, and then there’s AirAsia.
“So what choice do we have (but AirAsia)?” Ting said.
Ting felt that any possible cancellation had to be announced earlier.
“Since there is no MAS Sibu-KL flight, then we can only buy AirAsia tickets.
“But as you know, the later you buy an AirAsia ticket, the more expensive it is. My customers with Firefly tickets wanted cheap airfares in the first place.”
A tour agent in Miri, Albert Sim, who is also a member of STF, said: “In a way, I think Miri people are lucky Firefly never flew to us. What a hassle they’ve caused.
“Why have they not issued any statements or at least an explanation to travel agents? As a result, there’s so much inconvenience and misunderstanding.”
Malaysian Airlines System Employees’ Union (Maseu) is worried that the move could affect the strength of the unions within the national carrier.
It was reported that Sapphire would take over regional jet operations from MAS and Firefly.
“The affected staff could lose their seniority as well as other benefits tied to their length of service with MAS. Maseu will also be weakened by this transfer,” Ab Malek told a press conference yesterday.
He said there was no need for another airline as MAS could have two sections taking care of international and domestic flights.
“MAS is the oldest airline in Malaysia. There is no reason for not making a lasting profit,” Ab Malek said, adding that the Government should revamp the entire management.
Maseu, Airline Workers Union of Sarawak and Air Transport Workers Union of Sabah announced that they would picket if Sapphire was established.
Have you heard of the latest news that Firefly Airways will soon not be flying in to East Malaysia from certain destinations like Johor Bahru in West Malaysia?My reliable source told me that it is happening from 15 September 2011.
Have you also heard that Firefly Airline will become a full service airline operating from Subang only.
Go check out www.fireflyz.com.my and chances are they require you to call the Call Centre for your booking from Johor Bahru to Kuching. You can no longer book online.
There is a new budget airline that will be replacing Firefly airways soon for flights to East Malaysia? or it could also include certain destinations to neighbouring states. I think Firefly will retain the profitable route still like Kuala Lumpur to Kuching and Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu.
I heard that the budget airline will be called Sapphire Airways, the true blue airline. I went to the website and found it under construction and there is a link there to Expedia Malaysia. Isn’t this a clue already? Who owns Expedia Malaysia right now? Who else but the Red Giant, Air Asia group. so what does that tell you?
so that means that Sapphire Airways will be replacing Firefly coming t his Mid Sept earliest or Nov 2011 latest. We East Malaysians may have no choice but to use Sapphire Airways soon if we want to travel on budget i suppose, else there will always be Malaysia Airlines, the full service airline, the airline with a smile or the Tiger Airways from Singapore.
I am keeping my fingers crossed that whatever the outcome it is out there coming soon, it will not be an Armageddon but a win win situation for us folks here in East Malaysia. We need good connecting flights from West Malaysia to bring in the tourists with their RM/USD to continue to spur our economy. If everyone can afford to fly CHEAP, where is the plane for us ?
If you are holding a ticket after 15 September 2011 with Firefly airline from Johor Bahru to Kuching, you may just want to check with them if your ticket is still valid for travel on the booked flight and if the flight is still flying . If not, what is the alternative that they can provide for you? the customer?
This article is written solely by me based on my own ramblings and I shall not be held responsible or liable or subject to any legal suit for any outcome based on reliance on the information provided above. I exclude all liability and responsibility stated herein.