Mon, 26 Jun 2000

Two new local airlines begin their operations

JAKARTA (JP): Lion Airlines and Awair International launched their inaugural flights last week, becoming the first of seven new airlines to start operation.

President of PT Lion Mentari Air (Lion Airlines) Rusdy Kirana said on Saturday that his airline would serve the Jakarta- Pontianak, West Kalimantan, route twice a day starting June 30.

"The presence of Lion Airlines is in response to the improving market condition of the airline industry," Rusdy was quoted as saying by Antara news agency.

The two airlines are among seven to start operating this year. The other five are Pelita Air Service, Indonesian Airlines Avi Patria, Bayu Indonesia Air, Rusmindo Internusa Air and Jetayu Air.

Rusdy, who owns 49 percent of the company, said the airline's initial investment of Rp 30 billion (US$3.4 million) was used to acquire Boeing 737 aircraft.

He plans to add another three aircraft by next month, adding that the airline would buy a Boeing 747 and an Airbus.

Aside from serving domestic routes, he said, the airline will also fly to international destinations, such as to Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan from Jakarta.

Lion marketing director Yoen K said that the airline's Boeing 737 was the first large aircraft to serve the Jakarta-Pontianak route, which is currently served by smaller planes like Fokker 28s.

"The entrance of our Boeing 737 will open up new options to customers flying that route,' he said.

PT Airwagon International (Awair) announced it had successfully launched its first flight serving Jakarta-Surabaya, East Java, on Thursday last week.

The airline started serving the Jakarta-Surabaya route twice a day using an Airbus A-310-300, and from Monday it will add a third flight to the route, the company announced last week.

On Monday, the airline will also add two more two routes, serving Jakarta-Medan, North Sumatra, and Jakarta-Balikpapan, East Kalimantan, the airline said.

It said the airline's license allowed it to operate 27 domestic routes and 28 international routes, the realization of which the company expects to meet by 2002.

Awair president Rachmat Soebakir said he expected the company to operate six aircraft and start serving international routes this year.

The new airlines stepped in after existing commercial airlines state-owned Garuda Indonesia and Merpati Nusantara, and private carriers Bouraq, Mandala and Dirgantara Air Service reduced their operations to survive the economic crisis, which started in 1997. (bkm)