Aceh Gets First Intl Flight

BANDA ACEH ~ Aceh province welcomed its first international passenger air link this week as Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia inaugurated a route linking it to Kuala Lumpur, officials said.

“This will be the first direct international flight to come to Banda Aceh,” Riana Yunda, an official at the provincial capital’s airport, said on Tuesday.

Aceh, including Banda Aceh, was devastated by an earthquake-triggered tsunami that struck in December 2004, killing some 168,000 people and leaving a vast swathe of destruction in its wake.

Prior to the tsunami, Aceh was for nearly three decades a province with restricted access to tourists as government troops battled separatists there.

A peace deal ended the unrest in the wake of the tsunami.

Banda Aceh’s airport was damaged by the quake that generated the walls of water but was quickly repaired and used as a hub for the huge international relief effort that followed.

The airport’s runway was extended and its apron equipped with new safety equipment as part of US$7-billion reconstruction efforts across the province.

The AirAsia flight from the Malaysian capital across the Malacca Strait arrived at 12:30pm on Tuesday, carrying 116 passengers, an airport official said.

An AirAsia official in Jakarta said that the thrice-weekly flight would be served by an Airbus-A320 with a capacity for 180 passengers.

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