Jakarta. Another scandal involving drug abuse by an Indonesian airline pilot surfaced this week, raising safety concerns as the country prepares for the massive annual Idul Fitri exodus.
The National Narcotics Agency (BBN) detained a pilot of Lion Air, Indonesia largest low-cost carrier, at Lombok International Airport in West Nusa Tenggara on Wednesday (20/06).
The a 30-year-old Indian national, identified only by the initials R.S., tested positive for cannabis before he was about to pilot a plane to Jakarta.
The BNN also found 5 grams of hashish among his possessions. Further questioning revealed that he has been using the illegal substance for the past three months.
BNN chief Comr. Gen. Budi Waseso said the agency is tightening screening for drug abuse and drug trafficking by airline pilots and crewmembers at all Indonesian airports during the Idul Fitri exodus.
"We want to raise awareness and prevent drug trafficking through airlines," Budi said.
The Idul Fitri holiday will fall on June 25 this year and the government has decided to declare June 23-30 as an additional holiday.
The annual homecoming is the busiest season for airlines in Indonesia with the Ministry of Transportation estimating that 5.5 million passengers will travel by air in the week prior to and after Idul Fitri. This is a 9.8 percent increase from the same period last year.
Lion Air, which accounts for a 44 percent share of the country's air travel market, said it is taking steps to dismiss the pilot.
"Company regulation firmly stipulate that any employee owning, consuming or trafficking narcotics would be dishonorably discharged," Lion Air public relations manager Andy M Saladin said on Thursday, as quoted by Antaranews.com.
In January, a Citilink Indonesia pilot almost flew a jet carrying 152 passengers while appearing to be intoxicated. The incident prompted an investigation by the Transportation Ministry, which found that several airlines regularly fail to comply with preflight physical checks of pilots.
The Citilink pilot later tested negative for drug use, but he was dismissed for misconduct.