Indonesia’s largest low-cost carrier, Lion Air, says its full-service Batik Air will start service this month, connecting Jakarta to Manado, North Sulawesi, and Balikpapan, East Kalimantan.
Lion Air general affairs director Edward Sirait said that the maiden flight of Batik Air would be on April 26.
“We will gradually operate more aircraft every year to expand our business,” Edward said in Jakarta on Tuesday on the sidelines of hearing with House of Representatives Commission V overseeing transportation.
Edward said that the first new Boeing B737-900 ER to be used by Batik Air would arrive from Seattle, the US, at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng, Banten, on April 16. Plans call for Batik to offer 12 business class seats and 160 economy seats on the aircraft.
“We plan to operate six aircraft by the end of this year to connect major cities in Indonesia,” Edward said.
The full-service airline business, as opposed to no-frills flying, has excellent local prospects, given the rising number of Indonesians with disposable incomes, Edward said.
He said that local middle-class customers would switch from Lion to Batik as their incomes increased.
Batik has obtained flight permits and approval from the Transportation Ministry to serve 66 domestic routes and 20 international routes.
It plans to use the wide-bodied jet suitable for long-haul international routes in 2015, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
Last month, Lion launched subsidiary Malindo Airways to cater to the growing Southeast Asian market.
Malindo, a joint venture between Malaysia’s National Aerospace and Defense Industry (NADI) and Lion, offers flights connecting Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu.
Lion owns a minority 49 percent stake of Malindo, while the remainder is owned by NADI.
“We are currently preparing more subsidiaries to help expand our business in the airline industry and relevant sectors. Our goal is that we want to capture the Asian market,” Edward said.
Malindo is Lion’s first step to strengthen its position in Southeast Asia amid the ASEAN Open Sky policy scheduled to come into force in 2015.
Lion previously said that it expected to take delivery of 36 new aircraft to support expansion in 2013: 30 B737-900 ERs and six French-Italian Air Transport Regional (ATR) 72s twin-engine turboprop planes for its feeder airline, Wings Air.
The airline also recently signed a US$24 billion deal with Airbus for 234 single-aisle passenger A320 planes.
The landmark order includes 109 A320neos, 64 A321neos and 60 A320 classic planes.
The deal was signed by Lion CEO Rusdi Kirana and French President Francois Hollande.
Last year, Lion signed a $22.4 billion order with Airbus rival Boeing for 230 aircraft from the US-based company.
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