Govt May Close Airlines after Garuda Disaster

JAKARTA ~ The country’s new air transport chief is to step up the monitoring of airlines and could shut some down, following the Garuda Indonesia disaster last week that killed 21 people.

“In the near future, hopefully some (domestic airlines) will be closed down,” Budhi Muliawan Suyitno told local media without elaborating.

But Suyitno added his department would intensify the monitoring of airline operations and look again at the age of aircraft in Indonesia, as around half were more than two decades old.

Suyitno replaced the last air transport chief on Tuesday amid pressure for better safety in Indonesia’s skies after the Garuda airliner crash-landed last Wednesday in Yogyakarta and burst into flames, killing 21.

The disaster was Indonesia’s second major aviation tragedy this year. An Adam Air plane plunged into the sea on New Year’s Day, killing 102 people, in the earlier accident.

Indonesia’s airline industry was deregulated in the 1990s, encouraging a slew of new operators to take to the skies and catalyzing huge passenger growth.

But confidence in air travel, which helps to bind the archipelago of 17,000 islands, has been shaken by the deadly crashes and other incidents.

Oetarjo Diran, a member of a transport task force appointed by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, has said that air safety in Indonesia is at a “low point.”

Indonesia has suffered both air and ferry tragedies recently, with the total death toll from the worst accidents running into hundreds.

Experts blame old planes and ships, lax standards and insufficient investment in infrastructure.

The country has suffered both air and ferry tragedies recently, with the total death toll from the worst accidents running into hundreds.

Meanwhile, on Thursday, Garuda began compensating families who lost relatives in the latest crash, a spokesman said.

“We will begin to present the compensation of Rp600 million (US$65,500) to the families of each of the dead victims,” Singgih Handoyo said.

The airline had already paid cash compensation of a little more than $2,700 to most of the survivors, with the last few to be paid soon, he added.

Garuda Indonesia also published a half-page message in Indonesian media on Thursday, in which it apologized and expressed its “deepest sympathy” to passengers and crew.

“We will fulfill our moral commitments to the passengers and crew of GA200 and their families,” it said in the message, referring to the jet’s flight number.

“In aviation, there are no fast and easy answers. We will not look for easy solutions and quick fixes. We must wait until the outcome of the official investigation, which could take a considerable amount of time,” it added.

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