Budget airline Lion Air filed a police report on Thursday (19/05) against the Transportation Ministry's director general for air transportation, Suprasetyo, for allegedly abusing his power in issuing a tough ministerial sanction on the airline. (Antara Photo/Fikri Yusuf)

Lion Eyes Domestic, Pilgrimage Routes with 44 New Aircraft

BY :TRI MURTI

JANUARY 12, 2016

Jakarta. Lion Group plans to lease 44 additional aircraft this year, anticipating an increase in the country's air travel and an introduction of direct pilgrimage routes to Saudi Arabia, president director Edward Sirait said on Monday.

Lion Group will lease in 14 aircraft for its budget namesake Lion Air, 12 wide body Boeing for full service airline Batik Air and 18 ATR for propeller fleet Wings Air, Edward said.

"We are expanding with more direct routes this year, including Bandung to Balikpapan, Tarakan to Semarang and Banjarmasin-Semarang," he said.

Domestic and international air traveler numbers are expected to rise by as much 15 percent this year, on the back of the implementation of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Open Skies policy — which allows regional airlines to fly between two foreign countries between its departure point and destination — Indonesian National Air Carrier Association, or Inaca, as predicted.

More than 74.4 million travelers boarded domestic or international flights in the first eleven months last year, up 12 percent from the same period a year earlier, Central Statistics Agency data showed.

Edward said the airline is also readying for heavy traffic from Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority country, to Saudi Arabia. Launching this year, the airline will offer direct flights to the holy city of Medina.

The route will ease travel for pilgrims heading to the holy cities of Medina and Mecca, Edward said, giving Lion an edge over rivals which only offer flights to Jeddah.

Some 1.1 million Saudi Arabian visas were issued to Indonesians embarking on the minor hajj, or umrah, in 2015, data from the Religious Affairs Ministry showed.

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