The Jakarta Post
With ever-increasing air traffic at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang, the government is preparing the older Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in East Jakarta to serve commercial flights to help ease the load at the country's main gateway.
The government recently issued a ministerial decree detailing the new function of Halim, which is mostly used for military, private and presidential purposes.
Transportation Ministry spokesman Bambang S. Ervan said Halim airport would provide 21 flight slots per hour for scheduled flights.
'[State-run airport firm] Angkasa Pura II [AP II] is currently preparing Halim for commercial flights, particularly those serving haj pilgrims, which will start after the Idul Fitri holiday,' Bambang told The Jakarta Post.
'Haj pilgrims that used to embark at Cengkareng [Soekarno-Hatta] and Lampung will fly to Mecca from Halim starting this year,' he added.
Pilgrims from Jakarta and Lampung used to depart from Soekarno-Hatta's Terminal 3, which is currently being upgraded to accommodate wide body planes such as the Airbus A380s and Boeing B767s.
According to data from the Religious Affairs Ministry, the first batch of pilgrims will depart on Sept. 10 on board national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Halim belongs to the Air Force and is usually used by state officials and chartered flights such as Susi Air, Trigana Air, Indonesia Air and Air Maleo.
A number of airlines, such as budget carrier Citilink Indonesia, Lion Air and its full-service Batik Air, are intending to use Halim as their new base. They are processing slot permits with the regulator.
'We will later evaluate whether to continue using Halim for scheduled flights after the Soekarno-Hatta project is finished. There should be more discussions with the Air Force, Angkasa Pura [II] and operators,' he said.
However, he said there was a chance that the airport could be used for scheduled services after 2014 because traffic through Soekarno-Hatta was projected to continue rising in the future.
The Rp 7.6 trillion (US$752.4 million) expansion project at Soekarno-Hatta, which was kicked off in August 2012 by President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Vice President Boediono, is expected to be completed by the end of 2014, tripling its annual capacity to 66 million passengers.
Contacted separately, AP II corporate secretary Wasfan Widodo said the firm was currently improving facilities at the airport such as the terminal, passenger lounge and the commercial areas.
'We are speeding up this improvement project because the first scheduled flight [which is a haj flight] is nearing. We are also seeking partners to better develop the commercial areas to accommodate customer demand,' Wasfan told the Post.
He said the firm was also modifying a few areas in the terminal into transit places to meet the needs of pilgrims from Lampung.
AP II has spent Rp 7 billion ($693,000) on the renovation of Halim airport.