Jakarta. TransNusa Aviation Mandiri, a private airline based in Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara, plans to acquire three new ATR 72-600 turboprop aircraft this year to serve more domestic destinations.
The company currently operates seven aircraft, including three ATR 72-600s and one ATR 42 turboprop, manufactured by French-Italian plane maker Aerei da Transporto Regionale. It plans to phase out the three remaining aircraft, which include two short-haul British Aerospace 146 passenger jets and a Fokker 70 jet.
"ATR aircraft have proven to be very popular with passengers," TransNusa managing director Bayu Sutanto said in a statement on Tuesday (31/07), noting the aircraft's huge overhead bins and ergonomic seats.
"The aircraft are also important to our operation, because ATR aircraft can land and take off from runways where jet aircraft are unable to access," Bayu said.
The airline, which mainly operates in the provinces of East Nusa Tenggara and West Nusa Tenggara, plans to expand its flight routes to 30 destinations by the end of this year from 16 currently, Bayu said. Among these are destinations in Kalimantan.
"ATR aircraft have the lowest operating costs and excellent short-field performance. The ATR turboprop aircraft perfectly suits the Indonesian market. TransNusa has successfully used this product advantage to steadily expand its air services network," ATR sales director Lim Kian Hui said in the statement.
Indonesia is the largest market for ATR with 99 aircraft currently in operation across the archipelago, the aircraft maker says on its website. Among the manufacturer's clients in the archipelago are budget carrier Lion Air and national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.
TransNusa's decision to switch to more economical aircraft comes in a time of difficulty for local airlines.
Tengku Burhanuddin, secretary general of the Indonesian National Air Carrier Association (Inaca), said the aviation industry is facing higher costs as the rupiah weakens against the United States dollar. At the same time, a low floor price set by the government incited a price war that limits airlines' ability to boost revenue.
"The current situation in the aviation industry is tough. Everything's tough. If anyone says otherwise, I'd really doubt them. All of it, it's tough. Even though traffic growth is improving... the costs are climbing higher than our revenue," Tengku said.
The government said earlier that it is looking at raising the price floor on local airfares to help airlines survive.