Fares for Singapore-Malaysia route more than double for Chinese New Year period
Travellers planning to make a trip to Malaysia during the Chinese New Year period in 2024 can expect to fork out more than double the regular price of air and bus tickets.
More than three months before the festive occasion on Feb 10 and 11, many from Singapore who plan to celebrate in Malaysia have already snapped up tickets to escape paying inflated prices caused by the expected spike in demand.
One of them is Ms Cheyenne Lim, who bought return flight tickets to her parents’ home town of Penang for three people on AirAsia for $273 each.
Ms Lim, 23, who works in the food and beverage industry, said: “If we don’t buy early, the fares may double nearer to the Chinese New Year dates.”
She bought the tickets for her Feb 10 to 18 trip in March 2023, almost immediately after they were made available on the airline’s website. As at Wednesday, the same route costs $526.
In 2022, Ms Lim took a domestic flight to Penang from Johor after hiring a car to cross the border, as round-trip airfares from Singapore cost more than $500 each two months before Chinese New Year.
Checks by The Straits Times found that a one-way economy class airfare to Kuala Lumpur is between $81 and $552 for travel from Feb 4 to 10, an increase from $70 to $214 the week before.
A spokesperson for budget airline Jetstar Asia said the demand for air tickets to Malaysia has tripled for the festive period compared with non-peak periods.
“Chinese New Year is always a popular travel period... Our Singapore-to-Kuala Lumpur service is one of our busiest routes, particularly at this time when so many people want to visit family and friends,” added the spokesperson.
A trip from Singapore to Ipoh on Scoot would cost between $183 and $513 in the week leading up to Chinese New Year, compared with a fare of between $89 and $214 from Jan 28 to Feb 3.
Without disclosing figures, Scoot said the airline “continues to see strong demand” for flights to Malaysia leading up to the holiday.
Bus companies have also raised ticket prices, citing reasons such as a shortage of bus drivers and the expected traffic jams at the Causeway.
Checks by ST showed that bus tickets cost between $33 and $188 for a one-way ride to Kuala Lumpur from Feb 4 to 10, an increase from the $30 to $138 the week before.
Commuters can expect to pay up to $190 for a one-way trip, compared with the usual non-peak prices of $40 to $55.
The bus company plans to increase its number of trips, but will have to take into account a lack of bus drivers, added the spokesperson.
Malaysian bus operator Causeway Link expects a 70 per cent increase in commuters during the Chinese New Year period.
Mr Sonny Cosme, its public relations and marketing specialist, said customers can expect a 30 per cent increase from its regular price of $35 – for a one-way ride to Kuala Lumpur – when ticket sales start three months before the period.
The price increase is to account for longer travel durations due to traffic jams at the Causeway and higher payments to its bus drivers.
“This price adjustment also accommodates the higher remuneration provided to bus captains due to the prevailing shortage of bus drivers in the market,” added Mr Cosme.
To cope with the foreseeable increase in demand, both Sri Maju and Causeway Link will be increasing the number of trips made during the festive period.
A bus ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore on Feb 13 cost $80 for hairstylist Lewis Gan, 34, who said it was more than double the usual price of $35. Mr Gan, 34, who purchased the ticket in August, said he was afraid tickets would be sold out.
For the return trip to his home town, he paid $380 for an AirAsia flight to his home town on Feb 10. “I chose to fly over because almost everyone, including those who work in service and office jobs, will be taking a bus or driving a car into Malaysia. There will be a huge Causeway jam.”
Due to similar challenges, the cost of chartering private vehicles has also gone up.
Mr Alan Wong, director of VIP Holidays Transport, said hiring a car that departs from Singapore to KL would cost $500, compared with the non-peak price of $300.
“Besides a heavy traffic jam expected at the checkpoints, most drivers are Chinese and some may take leave for Chinese New Year. We are paying those who are working a higher salary.”