Malaysia expects Vaccinated Travel Lane with Singapore to boost aviation sector

AirAsia said that they are looking forward to participating in the VTL.
AirAsia said that they are looking forward to participating in the VTL.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia expects the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) scheme with Singapore will provide a boost to its battered aviation industry.

But tour operators and Malaysian workers living in Singapore say it will unlikely have any major impact on the economy or for them personally for now.

Malaysian Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong on Monday (Nov 8) said that the VTL scheme - which is limited only to air travel - will be a welcome relief for Malaysians who work in the aviation sector, including airline crew and airport staff.

Border closure since March last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic has hit the sector hard.

"Flights to other Asean countries are also currently under discussion," Datuk Seri Wee posted on Facebook on Monday.

Malaysian low-cost airline AirAsia told The Straits Times on Tuesday that they are looking forward to participating in the VTL, although it said details are still being finalised.

But Malaysian workers currently living in Singapore and tourism industry players say further easing of curbs is needed before any major impact from the VTL is apparent, both in terms of people movement and the economy.

Mr Dayalan Annasi, a 34-year-old Malaysian currently living and working in Singapore, said that the the scheme would mostly be utilised by business travellers, as the trip would, like before, still be expensive for workers like him.

"The VTL will probably be only for designated flights, and we (Malaysian workers in Singapore) don't have that much savings anymore because we have been spending our income here. I applied for a Periodic Commuting Arrangement (PCA) several months ago and until now I have not been able to secure a slot under the scheme," Mr Dayalan, who works as a testing inspector, told The Straits Times.

Mr Dayalan is one of hundreds of thousands of Malaysians who have been working and living in Singapore since the onset of the pandemic.

Mr Dayalan has returned to his Johor Bahru home only once in the past year. Before the pandemic, he commuted across the Malaysia-Singapore land border on a daily basis.

The PCA was started in August last year to enable Malaysians and Singaporeans to return home for a short leave amid the pandemic, but Mr Dayalan said getting leave from employers amid a manpower shortage in Singapore remains a challenge.

Tourism industry players also said that the VTL would not have an immediate impact on Malaysia's economy.

"This is a good start, but this will be used by those coming to visit families or business travellers mostly. We would not see any major impact in the first month," said Mr Abu Fadzil, head of operations and customer service at Asian Trails Malaysia.

Malaysia is just about to begin relaxing its rules for international travellers, with those who are vaccinated allowed to travel to the island of Langkawi in a travel bubble pilot project that will begin next week.

Details about the bubble are expected to be released in the next few days.