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Kuala Namu ready for take
off amid protest

The government says it is set to open Kuala Namu International Airport next week amid a protest on Monday by more than 100 local residents who blockaded an arterial road heading to the airport.

It says a new air slot system and road infrastructure were ready to support operations of the much-anticipated airport, which would start to replace the overcrowded Polonia Airport on July 25.

“We have arranged time slots for all carriers. We believe that the traffic will run smoothly,” Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang S. Ervan told The Jakarta Post, adding all airlines, including foreign carriers Malaysia Airlines and Silk Air, had been made aware of the new air slot system.

He said, however, that although a trial operation between January and March went smoothly, minor problems such as long lines could still happen at the Rp 5.5 trillion (US$550 million) Kuala Namu airport because all systems would start fresh.

The new airport will have the capacity to serve 8.1 million passengers annually, while the existing one, which is 42 kilometers away, served 7.89 million passengers last year despite its capacity of only 1 million passengers a year.

National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia vice president of communications Pujobroto separately said the airline was preparing all migration systems, including the ground handling, catering, and maintenance facilities to Kuala Namu. “We will also conduct a trial operation on July 18 to see which areas still need to be improved,” he told the Post.

Budget airline Indonesia AirAsia (IAA) spokeswoman Audrey Progastama said the migration for its ticketing system would run until Tuesday, during which passengers would still be able to book seats to all destinations excluding to and from Medan.

In terms of road infrastructure, Public Works Ministry highway director general Djoko Murjanto said the ministry had completed 80 percent of arterial road works that connected Kuala Namu airport to Medan. “Works of all three arterial accesses will be finished by the end of this year [...] But those from Simpang Kayu Besar and Tanjung Morawa are ready,” he said.

Meanwhile, in response to a protest launched by residents of Telaga Sari village, Deli Serdang regency, North Sumatra Deputy Governor T. Erry Nuradi said land disputes were lingering in five villages. “There are issues with 2,700 meters of land belonging to locals of different status,” he said, adding the provincial administration would help accelerate the land acquisition process.

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