The Jakarta Post
Indonesia has invited Australian airlines to open direct flights from Darwin to Saumlaki in Maluku, while the Indonesian government is developing the area as a tourism destination.
"We want a direct flight from Darwin to Saumlaki, the airline could be Garuda Indonesia, Lion or an [Australian] airline, [like] Jetstar," Tourism Minister Arief Yahya told The Jakarta Post after an evaluation meeting on the Maluku strategic project at the State Palace in Jakarta on Tuesday.
The Mathilda Batlayeri airport, which opened in 2014, is large enough to accommodate ATR-72 planes.
A discussion about the matter may be held during President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s visit to Australia on Feb. 25-26.
Aief said Garuda Indonesia had expressed its interest to operate the route, which is targeted to start in October.
Garuda corporate spokesman Benny Butarbutar said the planned route was currently under intensive review.
With its beautiful beaches, the island is considered a potential maritime tourism destination. The Sail Darwin-Saumlaki yacht race was also held annually.
Saumlaki was also a battlefield between 13 Indonesian troops under Koninklijk Nederlands-Indische Leger (KNIL) led by Sergeant Julius Tahija and dozens of Japanese troops that were equipped with three warships in 1942.
Indonesian troops successfully forced Japan to retreat. If the operation had failed, Japan could have entered and launched an attack on Australia. (bbn)
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