Thu, 30 Nov 2000

Airline seats fuuly booked for long year-end holidays

By Tantri Yuliandini

JAKARTA (JP): People planning to spend their long year-end holidays away may find it hard to get airplane tickets as seats offered by most airlines have been fully booked from Dec. 16 to Jan. 10, according to travel agents.

PT Travoo Online's Santirini said that domestic flights to Bali, Yogyakarta, Medan, Makassar, and Surabaya are fully booked from Dec. 17.

"International flights to Singapore, Bangkok, Australia, and Malaysia are all booked from Dec. 16 until Jan. 10," she told The Jakarta Post.

Santirini said that individuals would find it difficult to find tickets for international travel as most of the seats have been reserved to travel agents offering package tours.

"At this time, individual travelers are usually offered to be on the waiting list," she said, adding that only in December when travel agents start canceling their reservations would individuals have a chance to get tickets.

Out of all the people traveling to other countries on holiday, some 70 percent will be going on package tours, with only 30 percent as individuals, Santirini said.

Local airlines have their own tricks in anticipating the expected passenger surge during the months preceding and following Christmas, Idul Fitri, and New Year.

State-owned flag carrier Garuda Indonesia said it will add an extra 23,933 seats from Dec. 15, 2000 to Jan. 10, 2001.

Garuda vice president for corporate communications Pujobroto said the airline would increase the frequency of its regular flights, provide extra-flights as well as operate larger aircraft for some busy destinations.

The Jakarta-Solo, Central Java route will be increased to three times a day from only two times, Jakarta-Semarang to four times a day from three times, and Jakarta-Yogyakarta to six times a day from five times, he said.

Garuda would also service seven extra flights on the Jakarta- Yogyakarta route using the F-28 aircraft, one extra flight on the Jakarta-Denpasar-Jakarta route using Boeing 737-300 aircraft, and 19 extra flights on the Jakarta-Singapore-Jakarta route using the Boeing 737-300 aircraft, Pujobroto said.

The Jakarta-Denpasar route would be serviced using the 420- seater Boeing 747-200 aircraft, the Denpasar-Surabaya route with the 296-seater A-330 aircraft, and the Jakarta-Singapore route with the 247-seater DC-10 aircraft, he explained.

Privately-owned Mandala Airlines said that it started preparations from early November so that customers could be familiar with the programs sooner, head of development Kus Winarko told the Post.

He said that the airline had already begun increasing its flights and would continue until the middle of January.

The Jakarta-Surabaya-Banjar (Bali) route will be serviced two times a day from the previous once a day, the Jakarta-Surabaya- Makassar (South Sulawesi) route will be flown twice a day, and the Jakarta-Surabaya-Makassar route three times a day from the original two times, Kus said.

Mandala also added two new flights this month to Padang, West Sumatra and Batam, Riau, each serviced once a day, he added.

"We want our customers to know our schedules so they can plan their holidays better," Kus explained.

In addition to the increased flight schedule, the airline anticipated the surge by providing extra flights on the Jakarta- Denpasar route, which will be flown twice daily in the late afternoons, he said.

"And we will also add an extra flight to Manado, North Sulawesi on Dec. 23, because we expect many people from the region will want to go home for Christmas," Kus added.

To help bear the burden of extra flights, the airline will also be adding an extra 100-seater Boeing 737-200 aircraft next month, making the total of 11 aircraft owned by the company, he said.

Bouraq Airlines, another privately-owned company, said it would increase its flight frequency on the Denpasar-Manado, Surabaya-Balikpapan (East Kalimantan), Balikpapan-Manado, Jakarta-Batam, Jakarta-Manado, and the Surabaya-Manado routes.

Bouraq area sales comptroller Najman Hadi said that the airlines will also add a 120-seater Boeing 737-200 aircraft to help with the extra flights this month, adding to the seven Boeings and one Fokker aircraft the company owns.

Unlike other methods of travel that the government allowed to increase their fares during the holidays, airlines are not allowed to increase theirs.

Santirini from Travoo said that many airlines now charge their full published fare instead of giving the discounts they usually give on normal days.

"And on international flights, they apply a surcharge of US$50 for travel to Asian countries and $100 for travel to the United States," she said.

However, Bouraq said that it will not be charging the full fee and instead will decrease its discount rate from the usual 25 percent to 10 percent, while Mandala said it will not disappoint its regular customers by not giving the usual discounts.

Despite efforts from the airlines to provide extra flights, with over 18 million people predicted to be leaving Jakarta for the holidays, and 382,000 expected to travel by airplanes, it would be a good idea to reserve seats well in advance.