Malaysian Airlines – Singapore to Malaysia Airfare Ruse and the Fuel Surcharge Sham

I’ve just completed an online booking for air travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and perplexed not only at the extortionate cost of the airfare but more so, the deceiving if not despicable means of using fuel surcharges that turn a purportedly low-cost fare into a decidedly high-cost fare by means of fake additional charges.

On the first count, I thought the idea of deregulation of the Singapore-Malaysia route and the termination of the Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines Shuttle Agreement on their services between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur from 1 June 2008 was supposed to usher in a new era of low-cost fares.

I do not call RM740 (S$296) a cheap fare by any stretch however, it is even more annoying in the way Malaysian Airlines (and well, practically all airlines these days) present their online fare structures in a completely false and deceiving manner, in this instance showing the two legs as RM207 inbound and RM47 outbound with a total of RM254 turning into RM740 at the click of the confirm button.

How does RM254 become RM740? Well, it’s simply daylight robbery with a fuel surcharge of RM334 and taxes amounting to RM152; the sum total of these punitive charges more than the actual cost of the travel.

It may seem like a futile exercise in getting involved in this polemic and taking on the airlines, who clearly have the upper hand and will continue to abuse passengers with this rort; but surely in this day and internet-age, there should be an uprising against this sham and if enough people (passengers) vent their displeasure with fuel surcharges (an air-travellers ‘Spring’) the airlines might well be pressured into changing their despicable ways.

Morally, these fuel surcharges are clearly not ‘Best Business Practice’ and I would have thought borderline with most developed countries Consumer Protection Acts. They were introduced back in 2004 when oil prices topped US$40 a barrel and remained ever since, ever-increasing and outpacing oil prices and now treated as if an inherent part of pricing structure and airline industry norm.

Well, it is most definitely not normal and is still a hot topic, as outlined in this recent and excellent article in the Melbourne Age Newspaper, April 29th, 2013, by Clive Dorman, one of Australia’s most experienced travel journalists “The airline industry’s big sham: fuel surcharges”

It is compulsory reading, with Dorman lucidly stating the facts, to quote him briefly; “It’s an obscenity that airlines continue the sham of fuel price surcharges in an underhanded attempt to blame the oil companies for their biggest operating cost… The centrepiece of the cost of a frequent flyer redemption is now the fuel “surcharge”, which has kept rising even though fuel prices are now falling.”

Dorman points out, Qantas’s current $760 surcharge on a return flight to London is more than 12 times its initial surcharge of $60… Those increases saw Qantas’s fuel surcharges to London quadruple between February 2011 and March 2012.” And, “Singapore Airlines introduced a $US20 surcharge on return flights to London in June 2004. Today’s surcharge – $US520 – is 26 times that amount.”

Interestingly, “Air New Zealand does not apply a fuel surcharge …” So how is it one of the most remotely located and smallest international airlines in the world is seemingly the only one who does not take advantage of this industry adopted sham of fuel surcharge? Maybe the Kiwi’s are just too honest.

I don’t have all the answers to this unpalatable situation, other than simply suggesting to COMPLAIN! On facebook, twitter, blogs, whatever social network and website you can. Maybe someone with serious clout like TripAdvisor could start up an web-petition or BBC or CNN could champion the cause and develop a mobile App for people to vote against fuel surcharges.

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