Jakarta. Airlines controlled by Indonesian millionaire Rusdi Kirana have deployed a combined fleet twice as large as his closest rivals in this year's Idul Fitri homecoming season, painting his complete domination over Indonesia's airline industry as it recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Rusdi's airlines deploy at least 184 aircraft to serve millions of Indonesians who depart to their home towns across Indonesia in the past week to celebrate Idul Fitri.
That includes 110 jets controlled by Lion Mentari Airlines, the country's largest budget airline; 52 aircraft by Batik Air, the Lion Air Group's full-service airline unit; and 22 by Super Air Jet, Rusdi's latest no-frill airline brand launched during the Covid-19 pandemic a year ago.
In comparison, state-controlled Garuda Indonesia Group, the country's second-largest airline, operates only 70 aircraft during this holiday season.
Danang Mandala Prihantoro, Lion Air's spokesman, said the airlines deploy the latest, well-maintained aircraft from manufacturers to ensure this year's Idul Fitri homecoming travel could commence with minimal disruptions.
"Lion Air is committed to proper flight operations, ensuring that every aircraft is in prime condition, safe, airworthy, and planning proper flight preparation," Danang said.
Danang said that Lion Mentari Airlines's holiday fleet consists of six Airbus A330-300, six Airbus A330-900NEO, 35 Boeing 737-800NG, and 63 Boeing 737-900ER. Batik Air deployed an Airbus 320-200 NEO, 29 Airbus 320-200 CEO Sharklets, Airbus 320-200 CEO IAE V2500 Turbofans, and 21 Boeing 737-800NG. Super Air Jet also deployed 22 Airbus 320-200 to serve travelers during this year's holiday season.
Lion Group's closest rivals, the state-controlled flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and its subsidiary Citilink Indonesia, can only operate less than half as many aircraft.
Garuda Indonesia President Director Irfan Setiaputra said the airline's 35 jets are serving the homecoming travelers this season. Citilink readies a similar number of aircraft for holiday travels.
“We now have 33 operational aircraft. We may add up to 35-37 serviceable aircraft. We will optimize it for that," Diah Suryanti, Citilink's corporate secretary and vice president for corporate social responsibility (CSR), said recently.
The three airlines' combined fleet placed Rusdi miles ahead of his rivals to tap the country's air travel market, which is set to recover after the pandemic.
Minister of State-Owned Enterprises Erick Thohir said he expected the country's aviation industry to see as many passengers as before the Covid-19 pandemic in the fourth quarter of this year.
Eric said his expectation was in line with the economic recovery in several countries after the Covid-19 pandemic, including Indonesia.
“Now it's starting to get back to normal in many countries, including Indonesia. It may take six to eight months to return to normal as air travel is an alternative for business and leisure trips," Erick said.
In 2019, just before the Covid-19 pandemic, local and foreign airlines served more than 116 million passengers on the domestic and international routes. Strict restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19 diseases cut the number of travelers by 63 percent to 42.6 million in 2020.
Last year, the domestic airlines carried around 30.7 million passengers on international and domestic routes.