Tue, 25 Oct 1994

Merpati opens new routes amid optimism

By Hidayat Jati

SINGAPORE (JP): PT Merpati Nusantara, a subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, yesterday began servicing the route between Singapore and Bandung in West Java, aiming to achieve a load factor of 60 percent.

"We serve this route everyday by F-28 aircraft with a capacity of 80 seats," Ibnu Soekotjo, a Merpati director, told reporters shortly after arriving in the Lion City yesterday.

He said the Bandung-Singapore route is expected to increase Merpati's net revenue this year by 13.20 percent over last year to Rp 600 billion (US$27.2 million).

International services contributed some 20 percent to Merpati's revenue last year, Soekotjo said.

He explained that the new route is the concrete realization of last month's agreement between the two countries.

The new route increases Merpati's frequencies to Singapore to 16 times weekly, Soekotjo said.

He explained that the existing routes between the two countries include twice weekly flights from Pontianak, West Kalimantan, the four times a week service from Pekanbaru, Riau, and the thrice weekly flights from Padang, West Sumatra.

The executive conceded to The Jakarta Post that the airline's overall load factor is only about 50 percent. "We are determined to improve this," he said.

He also explained that Bandung was selected over the country's second largest city, Surabaya in East Java, because Merpati "is not yet prepared to compete in the lucrative Surabaya market. And our studies suggest that we should put a priority on Bandung."

He added that Bandung has a great deal of business potential. The city has a "significant" garment-industry. "Bandung is basically a sleeping giant and we will wake it up."

Minister of Transportation Haryanto Dhanutirto said earlier in the hilly West Java capital that he is planning to renovate the Bandung airport under a state-sponsored project estimated to require Rp 30 billion (US$13.7 million) in investment.

Soekotjo also said yesterday that Merpati will add new international routes next year to link Ambon in Maluku with Darwin in Australia, and Pekanbaru with Johor in Malaysia.