Mon, 12 Jan 2009
Yuli Tri Suwarni, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

The Indonesian subsidiary of Malaysia's budget carrier Air Asia is planning to open at least 10 international routes in Indonesia this year to help reach its target of carrying 3.5 million passengers from Southeast Asia's largest economy.

Air Asia Indonesia president director Dharmadi said Thursday the company hoped to generate Rp 2 trillion (US$185 million) of revenue from Indonesia this year, as against Rp 1.6 trillion from carrying 2.4 million passengers in 2008.

Air Asia plans to open this year a new route linking Bandung and Singapore by operating two A-320s, each aircraft having a capacity of 180 seats.

However, the airline is seeking support from West Java administration to immediately upgrade the runway at the Husein Sastranegara airport in Bandung for the use of its Airbus A-320 aircraft.

"With a full cargo load, the A-320s are required to land on an airstrip with a thickness of more than 52 centimeters. We have proposed this since 2008," said Dharmadi after meeting West Java governor Ahmad Heryawan Thursday.

The current thickness of the Bandung airport main runway is just 37 centimeters.

Air Asia is planning to open 10 other new routes in Indonesia which will be served by 12 A-320 aircraft and five Boeing 737s.

The routes include those linking Denpasar with Singapore, Denpasar with Perth in Australia, Medan with Penang in Malaysia, Medan with Hongkong, Medan with Bangkok, Medan with Phuket in Thailand, and Medan with Singapore.

"We will only operate the A-320 aircraft if the airstrips in Indonesia meet the requirements," said Dharmadi.

Air Asia carried some 160,000 passengers from Bandung to Kuala Lumpur back and forth last year, as more Malaysian tourists flocked to the city for shopping.

The Husein Sastranegara airport is operated by state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II, which has already allocated Rp 60 billion (US$5.55 million) for improving the airstrip.

Heryawan said the administration would help Air Asia in lobbying Angkasa Pura to immediately upgrade the runaway in a bid to allow bigger aircraft to use Bandung airport and generate more foreign tourist arrivals.



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