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May 2, 2008

Foreign flights increase could benefit tourism

To garner more visitors for Indonesia's tourist program dubbed Visit Indonesia Year 2008, the government should grant more foreign airlines increased flight frequencies into Bali and other tourist destinations, an industry leader was quoted by local daily Jakarta Post as saying Wednesday.

"If the government wants to be totally committed to making (the program) a success, it should start wooing other foreign airlines besides Singapore Airlines," Tengku Burhanuddin, Secretary General of the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association (INACA), said.

"Tell them that since our national carrier is banned by the European Union, we'll give them (foreign airlines) additional flight frequencies into Indonesia."

The Ministry of Transportation recently granted Singapore Airlines an increase in flight frequencies from four to seven flights per day to support the government's tourism program.

Singapore Airlines provides flights from Singapore to Bali, Jakarta and Medan, and the flights increase could see traveler capacity rise to 15,000 per week.

Vice President Jusuf Kalla, along with Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal and Tourism and Culture Minister Jero Wacik, reached the decision upon learning that European tourists were having difficulties finding direct flights from Singapore to Bali due to a recently prolonged EU ban on Indonesia's national carriers.

Tengku said the government should also grant European airliners direct routes to Bali and other tourist destinations, including Makassar in South Sulawesi and Surabaya in East Java.

"There's no reason why the government can't grant more flight frequencies to other foreign airliners. Let them build our tourism market for us and then, when we're ready, we'll slowly tap into that market," he said.

Currently, only Singapore Airlines and Garuda Indonesia are authorized to fly the Singapore-Bali route, with Garuda operating one direct flight per day. Budget Indonesian carrier Lion Air has plans to tap into the route soon, and the ministry of tourism and culture has stated several foreign airliners have requested permission to operate it too.

A recent Ministry survey on European passengers found that 30 percent of those wishing to visit Bali were forced to switch destinations due to flight unavailability.

The government has also recently opened the Yogyakarta-Kuala Lumpur route to two airliners: Malaysia Airlines, which would use the 144-passenger carrying Boeing 737, and AirAsia, which would use the Airbus A 320, with 180 passenger capacity.

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