FIREFLY’S decision to shut its Johor Bahru hub offering direct flights to Indonesia’s Bandung and Surabaya, and East Malaysia’s Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, has met with brickbats from the trade.
Initiated in August, Firefly’s Johor Bahru-Bandung services ceased yesterday, while its Johor Bahru-Surabaya flights will end with the last flight on October 28. The flights to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, which started in May and June respectively (TTG Asia e-Daily, March 28), were stopped earlier on.
Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents Johor chapter chairman and CK Vacation managing director, Kenny Ngi, expressed frustration over Firefly’s move.
“We are very disappointed with Firefly. It is a drastic move at short notice. The airline should have given a better time frame with a grace period,” he said. “Some (travel agents) had spent money printing brochures and advertisements. While we are upset, there is nothing we can do about it.”
“The biggest (negative) impact is to the image of Firefly and to Johor overall. We won’t trust Firefly anymore,” he added.
With regards to forward bookings already secured, Ngi said Firefly had advised agents to apply for a refund or look for alternatives. “I feel sorry for those who went to Java for the Hari Raya break, and are now stuck there unable to return,” he said.
However, a source in the Johor Bahru branch of Reliance Travel, who declined to be named, said the impact of Firefly’s pullout from Johor was not that great. “For flights from Johor Bahru to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, customers prefer AirAsia,” she explained.
Bandung agents also reacted calmly to Firefly's pullout, as the airline has not brought much business in its two months of operation there.
Bandung-based Tama Indonesia managing director, Reza Novaldi, pointed out: "In the last two months since its launch, Firefly's load factor was low. I'm not sure whether many travellers were aware of the service, but clients from Johor still fly AirAsia through Singapore.”
Bandung agents are expecting AirAsia to take up the dropped routes, following its recent cooperative agreement with Firefly’s parent company Malaysia Airlines (MAS) (TTG Asia e-Daily, August 10).
Atalanta Tours Bandung CEO, Ameriawati Atmasubrata, said: "I think the decision has to do with the entry of AirAsia into MAS. If the route between Johor Baru and Bandung is lucrative, AirAsia will take it to increase frequency to Bandung.
"We just need to be patient and wait until MAS and AirAsia finalise their internal consolidation."