AirAsia, Aviastar to bid for haj flights
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Domestic carriers Indonesia AirAsia (IAA) and Aviastar Mandiri plan to participate in the government’s annual haj transportation tender next year to capture the country’s haj pilgrim market, which is around 200,000 people a year.
Both carriers say they are preparing administrative and technical details to fly the pilgrims to Mecca, such as applying for route permits and leasing wide-body aircraft that can carry from 325 to 455 passengers, like the Airbus A330, A340, Boeing B747, B767 or B777.
“We are processing every document needed to meet every airline requirement to transport haj pilgrims. We hope to win the tender next year because we want to help the government during the haj season,” IAA spokesperson Audrey Progastama Petriny told The Jakarta Post on Friday.
Audrey said the low-cost carrier was going to lease A330 planes.
IAA is optimistic about winning the tender because it said it started to fulfil every requirement since early this year.
Separately, Aviastar commercial manager Petrus Budi said the carrier was processing every requirement on the list so they could be prepared to provide haj flight services in 2014.
“We want to take part in this tender because haj transportation is a promising business. We thought we could participate this year, but the government said we weren’t ready,” Petrus told the Post.
IAA and Aviastar had proposed their intention to bid for transporting pilgrims this year at the House of Representatives on Wednesday. However, the Religious Affairs Ministry and the Transportation Ministry said they needed to prepare further to meet several requirements.
Indonesian haj pilgrims have been transported by national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and Saudi Arabian Airlines every year.
With a total of 221,000 pilgrims last year, Garuda Indonesia flew 112,000 people across the archipelago from 10 different airports including Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Polonia Airport and Minangkabau International Airport by chartering 15 planes: 11 A330s, three B7447-400s and one B767-300 Extended Range (ER).
Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang S. Ervan said domestic carriers interested in bidding for haj flight services should meet 23 requirements, including landing permits for King Abdul Aziz International Airport and International Air Transport Association (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) certification.
In addition, the airline could not conduct a “wet lease scheme”, or a leasing arrangement where a lessor provided not only aircraft but also pilots, cabin crew, maintenance and insurance, for the haj project. Thus the airlines have to lease only the planes and provide the additional crew themselves.
“It’s not easy for an airline to win this tender because we have a clear set of strict rules to protect the business and passengers. They also have to be able to carry at least 20,000 passengers,” Bambang said.
He said the strict rules were aimed at preventing a collapse, such as was the case with Batavia Air. “The Batavia case should be a lesson for every carrier that wants to participate in the annual haj business,” he continued.
Starting Jan. 31, privately owned Batavia Air fully halted its operations following a Central Jakarta Commercial Court ruling that declared the carrier bankrupt for failing to pay US$4.68 million for two leased A330 aircraft.
The aircraft were to be used to transport Indonesian pilgrims during the haj season, but the airline did not win the tender for three years in a row.