The breakneck growth of the airline industry coupled with sluggish infrastructure development have left the busiest airports in the country with more traffic than they were designed to handle.
Delegates to the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association (Inaca) general meeting in Jakarta on Thursday said at least four of the busiest airports in the country were in trouble, with two of them catering to six times their designated capacity.
“The airports include Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, which has the capacity to handle 22 million passengers a year but had to accommodate 40 million passengers in 2010,” Syafril Nasution, Inaca’s head of scheduled flights division, said.
Other heavily burdened airports include Medan’s Polonia, which has the capacity to serve 900,000 passengers, but had to accommodate 4.9 million people last year; Bali’s Ngurah Rai, which has the capacity to handle 1.5 million but had to accommodate 9.5 million travelers, and Surabaya’s Juanda, which has the capacity to handle 6 million but served 11 million people last year.
“This affects the operation of all aircraft using these airports and leads to the delay of arriving and departing flights,” Syafril said.
Trikora Harjo, the general manager of state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura I, said overcapacity at airports posed problems for air traffic controllers.
“The air traffic control radar system [at Juanda] is only able to track 21 aircraft per hour, but at any
given hour there are 40 to 45 aircraft landing and taking off,” Trikora said.
He blamed the high frequency of flights at Juanda for causing damage to the 3,000-meter runway. PT Angkasa Pura I will begin a Rp 20 billion (US$2.35 million) project to repair the runway in September, he said.
Trikora said air traffic worsened as the airport operator did not have the authority to take action against airlines whose flights were delayed or cancelled. He said flight operators at Singapore Changi Airport had the authority to change the schedule of delayed flights and punish airlines that failed to comply with the schedule.
Hari Cahyono, corporate secretary of Soekarno-Hatta operator PT Angkasa Pura II, shared similar concerns. “Changi serves 42 million passengers per year. It is a small airport, however, it can anticipate flight
traffic by arranging flight schedules.”
Inaca said 13 airports nationwide operated by PT Angkasa Pura I handled 49 million passengers in 2010, although their combined capacity was only 30 million. It also said 12 airports operated by PT Angkasa Pura II handled 62 million passengers, exceeding their combined capacity of 28 million.
PT Angkasa Pura II plans to increase the passenger-handling capacity at Soekarno-Hatta to 62 million passengers a year.
“The capacity of Soekarno-Hatta has always a concern. But we also have to think of providing better access for passengers,” Hari said, adding the firm also planned to build a rail link to the airport from Gambir train station.