Starting today (25 April), Indonesia will temporarily ban commercial flights until 1 June in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19 that has infected more than 7,700 people in the country so far.
Directorate General of Air Transportation at Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation, Novie Riyanto, said today (24 April) that the ban applies to both domestic and international flights.
Some types of flights will be exempt from the ban, such as air carriers carrying world leaders and humanitarian organizations, as well as those transporting medical supplies and repatriating Indonesian citizens from abroad, Novie added.
Even prior to the suspension of flights, airline companies have been slashing the number of flights in response to the pandemic.
Indonesia’s state-owned air carrier Garuda Indonesia has stopped flights to and from mainland China, and suspended half the number of routes to Hong Kong and Singapore since the end of February.
At the end of March, Garuda Indonesia’s Director, Irfan Setiaputra, said that the state air carrier had grounded at least 30 out of 201 jetliners managed by one of its subsidiaries.
Citilink, Garuda’s business unit, boosted its charter and cargo services to offset the losses in the commercial flight segment.
Not all airline companies are prepared
Most of the air carriers supported the government’s decision. However, they thought that they did not have enough time to prepare anticipative measures in dealing with the suspension.
Chief of Indonesia National Air Carriers Association (INACA) Denon Prawiraatmaja told CNBC that while the association has always followed the government’s instructions, this particular one came about abruptly, and wished that extra time will be given to airlines to make preparations for possible refunds, among other things.
“The most critical thing is about how to explain to passengers who had reserved tickets before 24 April. Let’s say they had been on duty before the ban came. Should they come home after 1 June?” INACA Secretary-General Bayu Sutanto said yesterday.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) earlier predicted that passengers’ traffic in the Asia-Pacific region would shrink 8.2 per cent in early 2020, compared to the initial estimate with a 4.8 per cent rise.