Tue, 08 Mar 2005

Garuda reopens Fukuoka-Denpasar direct route

Wahyoe Boediwardhana, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar, Bali

National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has reopened its direct route between Fukuoka and Denpasar -- which was closed in November 2002 -- in order to fight for a 20 percent market share of Japanese passengers this year.

Garuda's vice president for networking, Simon Pulungan, said at a press conference to announce the airlines' inaugural flight that the main reason for reopening the route was to challenge the domination of Singapore Airlines (SQ), Cathay Pacific (CX) and Japan Airlines (JAL).

"If SQ does not increase its flights, we have an opportunity to challenge its domination for the Japan-Indonesia route. SQ does not have direct flights between Indonesia and Japan, but it has connections with the Singapore hub," he said over the weekend.

Pulungan said Cathay Pacific also flew to Indonesia from Japan, but with stop overs in Hong Kong. JAL is the only direct competitor to Garuda as it has direct flights to Indonesia from two Japanese cities -- Tokyo and Osaka.

To compete with JAL as the only other airline with direct flights from Japan to Indonesia, Garuda is offering tour packages, he added.

"The tour packages are suited to the schedule of Garuda flights. Actually, a market still exists and automatically will be shared. In the future, the competition will be mostly related to the tour packages offered by each airline," said the general manager of Garuda for Nagoya and Osaka, Marco Umbas.

Besides reopening the Fukuoka-Denpasar route, with flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, Garuda has also increased its flight frequency between Osaka and Denpasar to five times from three times a week.

By resuming flights to Fukuoka and increasing flight frequency to Osaka, Garuda has increased its flights to Japan to 18 times a week. The airline flies to Tokyo seven times a week and to Osaka five times a week.

Indonesia's consul general in Osaka, Pitono Purnomo, said Japan had potential as a tourist market for Indonesia. According to the Japanese statistics agency, Japanese spent 70 percent of their leisure time for traveling domestically and internationally in 2001.

In 2004, almost 17 million Japanese traveled outside their country. This number was likely to grow by three million in 2007, he said.

Unfortunately, Pitono said, Indonesia could grab only 4 percent of Japanese tourists while European countries could grab 30 percent, the United States 23 percent, China 17 percent, South Korea 13 percent and Thailand 8 percent.

"We must also remember that the Japanese are known for their tight schedules. They don't like to waste time on traveling time. Garuda has to be aware of this," he said.

The direct route will enable Garuda to reach Japan in six hours. It takes nine hours with Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific including transiting in Singapore or Hong Kong respectively.

According to Pulungan, Garuda currently flies Airbus 330 there with a capacity of 293 seats and Boeing 747-400 with a capacity of 405 seats.