Tue, 04 Jan 2000

Flights at Soekarno-Hatta airport back in the skies

JAKARTA (JP): Inbound and outbound flight services at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport returned to normal on Monday after several carriers suspended flights over the weekend due to fears about the millennium bug.

Foreign and local airlines said they resumed normal flights after the critical period during the rollover of the date from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 passed safely with no incident.

Eva Air of Taiwan, which canceled 34 of its worldwide flights on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 in anticipation of problems from the Year 2000 (Y2K) bug, said flights serving Indonesia were back on schedule after the impromptu cancellation of its direct flight from Jakarta to Taipei on Jan. 1 due to unusually low passenger load.

The airline previously decided to cancel its connecting flights from Surabaya and Denpasar on Dec. 31 due to concern over Y2K preparedness of local airports.

"The predicted Y2K problems did not occur on board our planes or airport grounds anywhere. But, bookings from Jakarta were terribly low on Jan. 1 that we had to cancel the flight," the assistant manager for the passenger section of Eva Air's Jakarta office, Diana Mawarsari, told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

She said bookings for flights to Taipei from Jakarta or Denpasar were almost fully booked for this week.

Most airlines serving Indonesia said they were already Y2K compliant long before the turn of the new millennium but were forced to cancel some flights due to low passenger demand.

There were predictions that Y2K would disrupt power supplies, telephones, banking, transportation and other sectors on New Year's Day because computers' two-digit-year systems would fail to distinguish between 1900 and 2000.

No country experienced major problems with the bug during the date change.

National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia said it found no problems on 37 flights operated between Dec. 31 and Jan.1

The airline's vice president for corporate communications, Pujobroto, said Garuda canceled its Dec. 31 flights from Jakarta to Perth and London due to poor passenger demand.

"We operated at a load factor of 65 percent on Dec. 31, slightly lower than our current average of 68 percent," he said, adding that Garuda expected to keep its load factor between 68 percent and 70 percent during the month.

Hong Kong-based air carrier Cathay Pacific is also operating its Jakarta to Hong Kong flights on normal schedule after an impromptu cancellation on Dec. 31 due to low demand, a member of the reservation staff at the airline's Jakarta office said.

"We had to cancel the Dec. 31 flight, which departed Jakarta on 7 p.m., because there was only a few demand on that day. Most passengers preferred to fly on the morning flight to Singapore and then connect to Hong Kong," she said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

She said most of Cathay's flights from Jakarta until Jan. 15 were fully booked.

"December and January are naturally peak seasons for airlines because people are traveling for Christmas and New Year's holidays. This time, we got even busier because the Idul Fitri holidays also falls in January (Jan. 8 and Jan. 9)," she added.

The official in charge of Soekarno Hatta airport, Achmad Rusdi, said at least 12 of the 274 flights scheduled on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 were canceled.

The situation was normal on Monday, with all 278 flights on the timetable operating as scheduled, he added.

Qantas sales manager for Indonesia Ronny Mampouw said the Australian airline resumed normal services on Monday after it canceled its Dec. 31 connecting flight from Singapore to Jakarta due to low seat demand.

"Many people decided not to fly on the New Year due to fears of possible computer glitches during the date change to 2000."

He said flights on Sunday and Monday were full, partly due to bookings from passengers who had rescheduled their departures on New Year's day.

Ronny said Qantas expected to record high load factors averaging nearly 90 percent before the Idul Fitri holiday and in the following weeks.

Japan Airlines' flights serving Jakarta to Tokyo and Osaka were on schedule on Monday after it delayed the departure time of flights from the evening of Dec. 31 to the early hours of Jan. 1 to comply with the company's policy not to fly on the midnight hour of Dec. 31 for safety reasons.

The airline's sales manager for Indonesia, Shuichi Sakamoto, said the delayed flights were full mostly with Indonesian tourists departing to Japan for the New Year's holiday. (cst)