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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Garuda to Explore Flights on Makassar-Australia Route

Emirsyah Satar, the Garuda Indonesia CEO said PT Garuda Indonesia will add three units of Boeing 747-500 to serve direct daily flights from Sultan Hasanuddin Airport in Makassar to Australia, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Jeddah, and Kuala Lumpur.

“We make this committment given South Sulawesi’s economic growth of 9.7 percent,” said Emirsyah at the launch of Makassar-Singapore first flight, in Hasanuddin International Airport VIP room, yesterday. “In addition, international flights from Makassar for business purposes have increased significantly.”

For example, flights to Singapore from Makassar via Jakarta had increased by 75 percent. Similarly, Umrah (the minor haj pilgrimage) flights to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, had increased by 30 percent. “We are unlikely to open direct flights if there is no market,” said Emirsyah.

Emirsyah explained the plan to open new routes to the five countries was possible after his company received five additional aircrafts. There are currently two units of 737-500 at Hasanuddin Airport. In 2011-2015, Garuda will gradually purchase more aircrafts until the number reaches 153 units, at an investment valued at US$1.2 billion.

The addition of the new aircrafts, said Emirsyah, was partly prepared for maiden flights. The short-route services will employ Boeing 737 with passenger capacity of 90 seats. “Sulawesi Airport with its short runway remains the main target to go to Makassar,” he explained.

The plan for the Mamuju Airport in West Sulawesi, for instance, is to be included in the route by 2011. For that, Emir continued, the local government must accelerate airport development and maximize airport facilities. “When the equipment in Mamuju is ready, we will begin the flights this year,” said Emir.

The air transportation expansion will now include 13 cities in Indonesia through Makassar: Ambon, Balikpapan, Biak, Denpasar, Jakarta, Jayapura, Palu, Surabaya, Gorontalo, Manado, Ternate and Timika, while flights to Singapore, Balikpapan, and Ternate were launched on June 1. The establishment of Makassar as Garuda’s third hub is part of Garuda’s commitment to advance the economy and tourism in South Sulawesi. This public company will also open an aircraft maintenance and repair center in the old airport, Mandai.

Syahrul Yasin Limpo, the South Sulawesi Governor, is optimistic that the new international routes from Makassar will run smoothly. “This has been included in the masterplan for the acceleration of development, which will make Hong Kong the final destination for live fish exports,” said Syahrul at the same event.

According to Syahrul, the establishment of Makassar as the third hub after Jakarta and Bali was the appropriate and strategic decision in connecting the western to the eastern regions.

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