Mon, 09 Oct 2000

Lion eyes more routes after launching maiden flight to Riau

PEKANBARU, Riau (JP): Private air carrier PT Lion Mentari Airlines plans to open new routes to Singapore and Malaysia from several cities in Indonesia after launching its maiden flight from Jakarta to Pekanbaru on Saturday.

Lion's marketing director Yoen Khang said here that the airline will start servicing direct flights to Singapore from Pekanbaru, Riau and vice versa on Oct. 14, and direct flights on the Kuala Lumpur-Surabaya, East Java route in November.

"The flight from Pekanbaru to Singapore is targeted toward European and Korean expatriates working in Pekanbaru, while the flights from Surabaya to Kuala Lumpur are aimed toward Indonesian workers in Malaysia," Khang said in a ceremony to mark the airlines' maiden flight from Jakarta to Pekanbaru.

The Kuala Lumpur-Surabaya route is currently being serviced by Malaysia Airlines (MAS), while the Singapore-Pekanbaru route used to be serviced by SilkAir.

SilkAir stopped service on the route in May this year and demands for flights to Singapore from Pekanbaru have been mounting ever since, Khang said.

"There is a high demand from employees of Caltex, Indah Kiat, and RAPP for direct flights to Singapore," he said referring to Riau-based oil company PT Caltex, and pulp and paper companies PT Indah Kiat Pulp and Paper, and PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper.

Khang said that after SilkAir abandoned the route, expatriates working in Pekanbaru had to go via Batam, approximately 312 kilometers northeast of Pekanbaru, to Singapore.

SilkAir, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines Ltd., closed the Singapore-Pekanbaru route when the company decided to update its Fokker airplanes to quieter, but wider, Airbuses which could not be adapted to the 30-meter-wide runway of the Sutan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru.

Lion's director of operations Capt. Roy D. Lumbuun said he expected the load factor for the Pekanbaru-Singapore flight to average 80 percent.

Khang said the company invested more than 10 percent of its total investment of Rp 80 billion ($9.4 million) for the Singapore flight.

The flights to Singapore would be serviced four times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, and would cost about $175 to $200 a flight, he said.

"We (Lion) cannot compete with bigger airlines in the fat routes, therefore we are taking the market in leaner but high potential routes," Khang said.

Fat routes are routes that could derive more than 200,000 passengers a year, while lean routes are those with less than 100,000 passengers a year.

According to Khang, the new flight service connecting Jakarta and Pekanbaru, using the Boeing 737-200 aircraft, will depart from the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta at 10:40 a.m. on a daily basis, and at 4:15 p.m. from the Sutan Syarif Kasim II in Pekanbaru.

It was established as a way of introducing Lion Airlines to the Riau public and "prepare" the locals for the planned Singapore-Pekanbaru flights, Khang said.

Lion, which had started its operations in June with the Jakarta-Pontianak, West Kalimantan route, said it had ordered the lease of four Boeing 737 aircraft in line with its expanding operations.

The first delivery of the aircraft would be made in November with the rest to arrive in stages until January, Khang said.

The additional aircraft would service the Surabaya-Kuala Lumpur flights, as well as the upcoming Jakarta-Kuala Lumpur, and Medan, North Sumatra-Kuala Lumpur flights, he said. (10)