Int’l Boost for Nation’s Airlines

Garuda IndonesiaBy William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times

KUTA/JAKARTA ~ Indonesia’s airline sector is to get a major international boost to restore passenger confidence by ensuring established carriers and low-cost newcomers meet stringent global safety standards, officials said here this week.

The central government signed two agreements with separate international airline groups this week – in Bali on Monday, with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and in Jakarta on Wednesday with the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The former commits aviation authorities here to improving safety and security in the air and gives more supervisory capacity to the Directorate General of Air Transportation, according to the pact signed by Transport Minister Jusman Djamal and ICAO president Roberto Gonzalez.

The second agreement, meanwhile, sees Indonesia entering into a program established by IATA in which airlines are assisted in their goals to reach global safety standards.

The moves come after a string of deadly accidents this year that left hundreds dead, including a New Year’s Day crash of an Adam Air jet off Sulawesi in which all 102 on board perished; an airliner belonging to national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia crash-landed at Yogyakarta airport in March, killing 21; and a series of near-misses and mishaps have also occurred across the country, including an Adam Air plane crumpling on landing and a number of Garuda flights having to return shortly after takeoff due to malfunctioning parts.

Last week the European Union announced that because of the poor safety record, Indonesian flights would be banned from entering European airspace. Currently, however, no Indonesian carriers fly to Europe, but some industry analysts said the decision could harm tourists’ confidence in flying local airlines here.

In April the US Federal Aviation Administration said Indonesia’s aviation sector did not comply with global safety standards.

IATA is to help Indonesia’s carriers – which have ballooned since deregulation of the local industry a decade ago from a handful to 51, many using decades-old aircraft – to prepare for its Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), the first worldwide standard for airline operational safety auditing.

Seminars on safety, and training, would be held, IATA said, adding that the IOSA was the “highest standard” currently available around the globe.

Montreal-based IATA represents 250 of the world’s major airlines, accounting for 94 percent of international scheduled air traffic, it says. In Indonesia, Garuda is the country’s sole IATA member; however the group said this week that the IOSA would be available to all Indonesia airlines, most of them low-cost carriers that have sprung up in the last few years.

The global air accident rate last year was one for every 1.5 million flights, but for IATA members, it was one per 2 million flights, IATA said.

“The results are impressive, but the tragedies in Indonesia earlier this year remind us that much work needs to be done,” IATA’s director-general Giovanni Bisignani said in a statement.

For its part, the government of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has taken swift action since the air and other transport-related tragedies here this year, forming a special task force to oversea the sector, especially concerning safety standards and maintenance.

Last month, following an audit of the nation’s airlines, the government announced that Garuda was the safest carrier while listing the rest as below standard and giving their management a timeframe to improve or be forced to shut down.

A separate audit, of Indonesia’s major airports, meanwhile, lists Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport as the best in the country in the country in terms of security.

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