Wed, 24 May 2000

AWAIR Internasional set to fly

JAKARTA (JP): AWAIR Internasional will take off as the first new scheduled airline company in the country since 1990 when it launches its Jakarta-Surabaya and Jakarta-Medan services next month.

"We see this year as the most opportune time to provide a new dynamic in the air transportation industry despite the still nascent economic recovery," AWAIR chief executive officer Rachmat Soebakir said on Tuesday.

Soebakir, who claims more than 30 years of experience in airplane chartering services, said the airline was awaiting an air operator license from the Ministry of Communications.

"We have leased two Airbus-A-310s from Swiss Air that is well- known for its most reliable maintenance quality, and one of the jets is now being painted with our logo at the Garuda maintenance center in Cengkareng."

He added the company was directed by a management team consisting of former directors of national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

Kussuyono serves as commercial director, his last position at Garuda before he retired. Yassir Ismail is operation director, also the same position he held at Garuda before his retirement, while Asep Chandra, formerly director of quality control at Garuda, serves as technical director, and Hadianto manages the financial department.

From its name, Soebakir said AWAIR Internasional was designed to be a national airline with both domestic and international services.

"With a quality competitive edge, AWAIR International will accomodate the needs and wants of airline consumers with a nationwide network backup to enhance the visits of foreign travelers to Indonesia," he said of his company's mission statement.

Soebakir said he was fully aware of the intense competition ahead as five other domestic scheduled airlines were set to operate within the next few months.

"This vast archipelagic country is a sufficiently large market to accommodate more than 10 scheduled airlines. Moreover, we also are aiming for the international market," he added.

Domestic airlines also preparing to launch scheduled services are Indonesian Airlines, Lion Mentari Airlines, Pelita Air Services, Rusmindo Internusa Airlines and Bayu Indonesia Airlines.

Domestic routes are currently plied by Garuda, state-owned Merpati Nusantara Airlines, Mandala Airlines and Bouraq Airlines.

Sempati, formerly the largest private airline that was jointly owned by former president Soeharto's youngest son Hutomo Mandala Putra and Mohamad "Bob" Hasan, went bankrupt immediately after Soeharto's ouster amid the economic crisis in May 1998.

AWAIR's article of incorporation initially listed Abdurrahman Wahid, then chairman of the Nahdlatul Ulama Muslim organization, as a shareholder.

"But Gus Dur (Abdurrahman's nickname) resigned from AWAIR immediately after his election as the fourth Indonesian president last October," Soebakir said.

The company is owned by three businessmen from Surabaya and Jakarta, he added.

Soebakir lised the Airbus A-310's advantage of passenger capacity of 175, including 16 in first class and 54 in business class, and the capability to carry 12 tons of cargo.

"This freight capacity will surely facilitate interisland or export of goods," he added.

Kussuyono said AWAIR would gradually expand its services to other major cities such as Batam and Ujungpandang and to international destinations in Taiwan and Australia using leased Airbus A-310, Boeing B-737 and Boeing B-777.