Char­ter air car­ri­ers fly in bad weather


The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Contents - THE JAKARTA POST/JAKARTA

In­done­sia’s char­ter air car­ri­ers still pin high hopes that the in­dus­try will see a sil­ver lin­ing af­ter the tur­bu­lence it has faced in re­cent years caused by the de­cline in the coun­try’s min­ing, oil and gas ex­plo­ration and pro­duc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

In­done­sia Na­tional Air Car­ri­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (INACA) chair­man of non-sched­uled flights Denon Prawiraat­madja said the de­cline in the min­ing, oil and gas sec­tors se­verely hurt the air char­ter busi­ness in the coun­try.

“A drop in oil prices has caused many oil and gas com­pa­nies to cut their bud­gets for he­li­copter rentals since last year,” he said over the phone re­cently. The fall in com­mod­ity prices has led to a fall in or­ders from min­ing com­pa­nies. At present, the char­tered air­lines’ cus­tomers come from min­ing, oil and gas com­pa­nies.

“Busi­ness this year will prob­a­bly not be as good as in 2013,” he said, re­fer­ring to the year when In­done­sia, which has South­east Asia’s largest econ­omy, ben­e­fited from a com­mod­ity boom.

Amid the chal­leng­ing busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, Denon, who is also the pres­i­dent director of air char­ter op­er­a­tor Whitesky Avi­a­tion, noted that since 2014 sev­eral air char­ter com­pa­nies started to di­ver­sify into tourism and city trans­porta­tion, for ex­am­ple, to get around the low-de­mand sit­u­a­tion.

“Char­ter flight ser­vices for gen­eral pur­poses still pro­vide a big op­por­tu­nity in In­done­sia,” he said, adding that the gen­eral pur­poses in­clude tourism trans­porta­tion and lux­ury flight ser­vices.

Whitesky an­nounced re­cently that it would spend US$36 mil­lion to pur­chase 30 he­li­copters in prepa­ra­tion for next year’s launch of its new point-to-point air-ride ser­vice dubbed the Helic­ity Ser­vice.

The Helic­ity Ser­vice al­lows up to three cus­tomers to travel from one point to an­other in Greater Jakarta and the West Java cap­i­tal of Ban­dung.

The price tag will be about Rp 3.5 mil­lion (US$266) per trip for each pas­sen­ger, or about Rp 10 mil­lion per trip, lower than the stan­dard fare of around Rp 30 mil­lion per hour. A chop­per trip be­tween Jakarta and Ban­dung nor­mally takes about 40 min­utes. It is hoped the lower price will en­cour­age more peo­ple to use the he­li­copter ser­vice.

The com­pany aim at tap­ping mar­ket po­ten­tial from non-cor­po­rate pas­sen­gers amid the slow­ing de­mand for air char­ter ser­vices from oil, gas and min­ing cor­po­ra­tions caused by a slump in oil prices.

In ad­di­tion to the gen­eral util­ity, In­done­sia’s mar­ket still pro­vide room to ex­plore us­ing he­li­copters for am­bu­lance ser­vices and tourism. Denon said cur­rently air char­ters for tourism pur­poses were avail­able in Se­marang of Cen­tral Java, Bali and Sorong of West Pa­pua only.

Data from the Trans­porta­tion Min­istry shows that as many as 43 com­mer­cial non­sched­uled and two non-sched­uled cargo air­lines op­er­ated in In­done­sia last year; 16 of

them are reg­is­tered as INACA mem­bers. The num­ber of com­mer­cial non-sched­uled air­lines was down from the 47 that flew in 2014.

Mean­while, there were 253 char­tered planes, ex­clud­ing he­li­copters, fly­ing last year. Of that num­ber, 64 were op­er­ated for com­mer­cial pur­poses while the re­main­der were for non-com­mer­cial and pri­vate use.

Among the char­ter air­lines is ASI Pud­ji­as­tuti Avi­a­tion, known as Susi Air, which was es­tab­lished in 2004 by Susi Pud­ji­as­tuti, who is now the mar­itime af­fairs and fish­eries min­is­ter. The firm op­er­ated a fleet of 50 air­craft to serve 196 do­mes­tic routes to 164 des­ti­na­tions, mostly in re­mote ar­eas. It recorded be­tween 150 and 225 flights per day last year.

Susi Air pro­vides sev­eral ser­vices, such as char­tered flights, sur­vey flights, surf char­ters, freight ser­vices and even a fly­ing school.

Denon stated that in or­der to boost the growth of the in­dus­try, the as­so­ci­a­tion had pro­posed sev­eral mea­sures to the govern­ment, in­clud­ing al­low­ing he­li­copters to fly in the evening and pro­vid­ing more air­ports for non-sched­uled flights.

“Pro­vid­ing pi­lots and engineers, I think, has to be govern­ment pri­or­ity for now,” said Denon, adding that the in­dus­try lacked hu­man re­sources be­cause of high ed­u­ca­tion costs.

“The govern­ment should en­cour­age busi­ness­peo­ple to es­tab­lish more fly­ing schools,” he said.

Denon ac­knowl­edged that the cur­rent reg­u­la­tions were sup­port­ive of the in­dus­try, giv­ing as ex­am­ples the zero im­port duty on spare parts for air­craft and the proac­tive moves of state-owned oil and gas com­pany Per­tam­ina to pro­vide avi­a­tion fuel to char­ter air­line com­pa­nies.

In the last two years, the govern­ment has also fa­cil­i­tated dis­cus­sions among busi­ness play­ers, rel­e­vant min­istries and state-owned en­ter­prises to im­prove the char­tered flight in­dus­try, Denon claimed.

“We un­der­stand that the govern­ment’s pri­or­ity is for com­mer­cial sched­uled air­lines as their share is around 90 per­cent of the mar­ket. How­ever, that’s not a rea­son to not take care of us,” he said.


Standby: Two Cessna 208B com­muter planes op­er­ated by Susi Air at Long Am­pung Air­port in Kayan Se­la­tan dis­trict in Malinau re­gency, East Kal­i­man­tan.

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