THE JOURNAL consists of selected, most notable and newsworthy POSTINGS OF THE DAY.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Air Travel in Indonesia

Here's something close to my heart ... travel. It's a passion and hence this report.

It is a very chilly picture of air travel in Indonesia. What has happened to the industry? Indonesia with a population of 230 million and 17,000 islands relies a lot on air travel as a convenient mode of transport.

This year on New Year's day, an aircraft of Adam Air went missing with 102 passengers aboard near Sulawesi. On March 7th, 21 people were killed in Yogyakarta when a Garuda jetliner crash landed. Previously many crashes have occured in Medan, Sumatra.

Low cost carriers have grown tremendously in this country. From only 3 in 2002 to 28 budget carriers today. Air travellers have increased from 19.2 million in 2003 to 34 million last year.This huge growth has been due to cheap, almost cut throat prices offered by these 28 airlines to attract passengers to fill the seats.

This has meant cutting corners and offering huge discounts. The high demand for air travel, low prices, high operating costs and thin margins have forced many budget carriers to fly their planes way beyond the aircraft's limits of flying time which causes metal fatigue.

Passengers themselves contribute to the problem by taking excess baggage and bribing check-in clerks. Courier companies in turn bribe ground handlers to turn a blind eye to overweight cargo. This in turn causes overloading the plane.

Corruption like these, old and badly maintained aircraft, outdated technology, ill-trained aviation personnel, poor radar cover, non-compliance to to air traffic regulations, poor supervision and bad management practices at the airports have all led to a poor state of aviation industry in Indonesia.

So what has the Government done?

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA), lowered Indonesia's airline oversight rating after two deadly crashes this year. This warning will have no impact on the country's aviation said the previous Minister of Transport, Hatta Rajasa.

The last time Indonesian authorities carried out a review of its carriers, none fully met the safety standards. The worst seven were warned to make improvements or face freezing of its operation that could lead to closure of the airline.

The FAA has downgraded Indonesia's safety oversight from Category 1 to Category 2 - indicating not meeting ICAO standards.

I only hope the Government and the Insurance Companies have adequately compensated the next of kin of the missing passengers and crash victims of the latest tragedies. That itself would be a sufficient deterrent to prevent further misfortunes and to correct the sorry state of the authorities and airlines of the country.