Jakarta. The new Kertajati International Airport in Majalengka, West Java, is scheduled to begin operations in June to coincide with this year's hajj season.
The airport will be the second biggest in Indonesia after Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport and has been in development since 2013 with initial investment from the West Java provincial administration of Rp 4.9 trillion ($392 million).
Eventually, the 1,800-hectare airport will have two runways and be able to accommodate 18 million passengers annually by 2045.
"[The airport's first stage development] is nearly 80 percent complete. Everything will be ready in a few months," Agus Santoso, the Transportation Ministry's civil aviation director, told reporters after a meeting at the Coordinating Maritime Affairs Ministry headquarters in Jakarta on Wednesday (17/01).
"President Joko Widodo wants the airport ready this year to be used by West Java's hajj pilgrims, and for that reason we need to extend the runway from 2,500 meters to 3,000 meters to accommodate bigger aircrafts," Agus said.
West Java usually sends the most number of pilgrims to Mecca every year for the hajj. Agus said there is a possibility that a new accommodation for pilgrims will be built near the airport.
"We hope the Religious Affairs Ministry will seriously consider it. It would be a waste if the airport is ready but pilgrims have nowhere to stay near the airport," Agus said.
At the moment, the nearest dormitory for hajj pilgrims is located in Cirebon, around 60 kilometers from the airport.
Joint Operation Deadlock
The Kertajati Airport is developed and owned by Bandarudara Internasional Jawa Barat (BIJB), a company owned by the West Java regional government established in 2013.
Since the central government also wants to give funding to the airport, it has to form a joint venture with state-owned company Angkasa Pura II (AP II), the most experienced airport operator in the country.
"We can only give funding to state-owned companies, not companies owned by regional governments. So far we've given Rp 400 billion to Angkasa Pura to develop Kertajati's runway," Agus said.
"But we still have to clarify the agreement between BIJB and AP II," he said.
BIJB and AP II are currently still in talks to reach an agreement on the ownership and operation of the airport — which the central government demands has to be world-class.
"We will give more funding as long as they make sure the airport is kept to world-class standards and stays profitable," Agus said. "Otherwise, it would be a waste."
Talks started in July last year and were expected to wrap up in October, but the deadline passed without an agreement being signed.
"We want the partnership [with AP II], but need to find a win-win solution. Maybe we can finalize an agreement on Friday," BIJB chief executive Virda Ekaputra told reporters.
BIJB wants to sell its 38 percent stake in the airport to AP II for Rp 930 billion, according to Virda, but no agreement has been reached.
"We want the contract to last for 10 years, but AP II wants 25 years. We're still bargaining," he said.
Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan said the partnership will last 20 years at most.
"It will be between 17 and 20 years, and decided on Friday," Luhut said.