Several top online travel agencies in China have begun boycotting Malaysia Airlines over its handling of the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 until it "gets to the bottom of the truth on flight MH370", the South China Morning Post(SCMP) reported today.
The largest online ticket and travel vendors, including eLong, LY.com, Qunar and Mango, told the daily they have banned sales of MAS tickets due to public anger against the airline and the Malaysian government.
However, the country's largest online travel agency - Ctrip.com - has not put up such a ban "due to objections raised by the sales department", a Ctrip employee told the SCMP.
“We will continue the ban indefinitely until the Malaysian government and Malaysia Airlines release every piece of information they have in order to find out the truth about the missing flight as soon as possible," eLong said in a statement on its official Weibo page.
The agency said two passengers on the Beijing-bound MH370 flight had booked their tickets with them. It revealed that it would be paying each family 100,000 yuan (RM52,774) as a "consolation".
LY.com also said it will offer a full refund to customers who wished to cancel bookings of the airline's tickets and would carry on with the ban until the flight operator “sorts out the truth and offers a satisfactory explanation to all the victims and the Chinese people”.
SCMP reported that the announcements of the ban appeared to have pleased netizens who heaped praises on the agencies.
The statement from eLong has received over 7,000 comments and more than 10,000 reposts until today, the report said.
“eLong has proved it has a conscience, and I will book from them in the future,” a microblogger said.
Several internet users flayed Ctrip for their refusal to participate in the boycott of Malaysia Airlines.
Ctrip, Qunar and LY.com are the top three most influential online travel agencies in China, the SCMP said, quoting a 2013 research conducted by China IT Research Centre.
In the third quarter last year, Ctrip took 48.9% of the total sales of China's online travel booking while eLong and LY.com represented 9.5% and 6.3% of the market share respectively, it said.
According to its financial statement, NASDAQ-listed Ctrip leads the market with a revenue of 5.4 billion yuan in the 2013 fiscal year, SCMP said.
The daily noted that even as calls to boycott Malaysian tourism and products this week continued to grow, several bloggers and columnists have warned against creating further tension between the two countries, urging for calm and help for the passengers' families.
More than 1.7 million Chinese tourists visited Malaysia last year, making it the country's third-biggest source of visitors, behind Singapore and Indonesia, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz revealed in Parliament early this year. – March 28, 2014.