Fri, 05 Dec 2003

Lion Air, Garuda to fly to Vietnam this month

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The country's flagship carrier Garuda Indonesia, and local no- frills airline Lion Air will launch flights to Vietnam starting this month. For the past five years, no Indonesian airline has served the route.

Lion Air's maiden flight to Ho Chi Minh City will be on Dec. 19. It will be an extension of its Jakarta to Singapore route, which started last month.

Flying four times a week, Lion Air will charge US$334 for its Jakarta to Ho Chi Minh City return ticket, excluding airport tax and insurance, public relations manager Hasyim Alhabsi told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

"Each flight will have a capacity of 152 passengers. We shall create two classes, business and economy. However, until the end of the month, we shall offer only economy class," he said.

Meanwhile, Garuda, which is targeting the middle market upward, will also fly to the city starting Dec. 16.

"We shall fly three times a week to Saigon: every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday," Garuda spokesperson Pudjobroto told the Post.

Garuda withdrew its Jakarta to Vietnam route in 1997 due to the regional financial crisis. It had previously served the route for eight years.

Using Boeing 737-400, the aircraft will be able to carry 134 passengers: 14 in business class and 120 in economy.

"The route will be Jakarta-Singapore-Saigon. We shall transit in Singapore but there will be no change of aircraft," said Pudjobroto, referring to the former name of Ho Chi Minh City.

However, he declined to state the price of the Garuda ticket for the Vietnam route.

Earlier, Lion Air president Rusdi Kirana said the Vietnam market was one of the most lucrative destinations at the moment, as many foreign investors were planning to invest in that country.

"Americans go there mostly for business, while Europeans, mostly French, travel there as it still has links with its colonial past," he said.

The increase in the number of people visiting Vietnam has been caused mainly by the growing attractiveness of the country as an investment destination, he said.

Pudjobroto concurred.

"The signing of a visa-free agreement for the citizens of both countries by the two governments in July is expected to encourage more Indonesians to visit Vietnam," he said.

With upcoming maiden flights to Vietnam by the two airlines, Lion Air and Garuda Indonesia will be the only Indonesian airlines flying to Vietnam.

Asked about the competition, Pudjobroto said they were not worried as Garuda had its own market, which was different to Lion Air's. "We shall maintain our customary service levels for our passengers."