Low-cost carrier Mandala Airlines has selected Pekanbaru as a minihub in Sumatra, linking the Riau provincial capital with Jakarta, Medan and Singapore, on account of soaring business activities and high passenger volume.
“Our appointment of Pekanbaru as our flight center in Sumatra is part of our business development strategy to develop a flight network covering both domestic and international destinations with a flying time of under five hours,” Mandala president director Paul Rombeek said on Thursday.
Rombeek was speaking on the sidelines of the inaugural flight between Pekanbaru and Jakarta.
The new route sequence is Jakarta-Pekanbaru-Medan-Pekanbaru-Singapore-Pekanbaru-Jakarta. The route will be extended to Yogyakarta by the end of January.
Pekanbaru has an average economic growth of 9.05 percent, way above other Indonesian cities,” Rombeek said.
“The number of tourists from ASEAN countries comprised 80.73 percent of the total visits. This is a potential market for when we open new routes linking Pekanbaru with other cities in Indonesia and its neighboring countries.”
Commercial director Brata Rafly said Mandala offered affordable fares by maintaining world-class service standards, namely punctuality, safety and comfort.
“We are not competing head-to-head with large airlines such as Garuda. We are up against other low-cost carriers,” he said. “We are not competing to operate the highest volume of flights, we are striving to provide the best service.”
Currently, he said, Mandala had an on-time performance of 86 percent for its 15 domestic and international routes, which are served with seven Airbus A320 narrow-body aircraft.
Mandala, Brata said, would have 15 airplanes by the end of this year to strengthen Pekanbaru as a minihub.
Brata said the airline had yet to set a load factor target for the Pekanbaru-Jakarta route while he was certain that the flights would be filled.
“Batavia Air has served the route three times a day and never experienced problems filling its aircraft,” he told The Jakarta Post.
“We are optimistic that we will see lots of repeat customers in the end, earning their loyalty.”
He added that Mandala was lucky to be serving the route as it was matured by Batavia.
He, however, emphasized that Mandala was not taking over Batavia’s routes following the latter’s bankruptcy but rather trying to help the passengers that were “stranded” by Batavia.
“We don’t fly all of Batavia’s routes, we only fly where we have established routes,” he said.
Rombeek said that so far, Mandala had flown more than 4,000 of Batavia passengers from Jakarta to Medan, Padang, Pekanbaru and Singapore.
Meanwhile, the Transportation Ministry’s air transport director, Djoko Murjatmoko, said that the prospect of airlines in Indonesia was still huge, pointing to the fact that the number of air passengers increased by 20 percent from 60 million in 2011 to 72.5 million in 2012.
“Mandala should be able to take advantage of the situation as there are still wide opportunities for airlines in the business,” he said.
Djoko, who took part in the inaugural flight, also appreciated Mandala’s efforts in transporting its passengers following its bankruptcy.
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