Jakarta. Lion Air, Indonesia's largest budget airline, successfully conducted its first flight from Changsa, China, to Batam in the Riau Islands on Thursday (13/07).
The flight, which carried 212 Chinese tourists, arrived at Batam's Hang Nadim International Airport at 4.45 a.m.
"This is an initial flight that has been prepared for three months. The flight was on a Boeing 737-900ER," said Nico Giyansyah, Lion Air's Hang Nadim Airport manager.
The aircraft, Nico added, landed ahead of prospected arrival time of 6.00 a.m. after traveling directly from China for 4.5 hours.
The opening of the route is the result of a partnership between Lion Air and Eco Indo Travel, a travel agency owned by the Jetwings Group that recently began operations in Batam on May.
"Throughout July, there are three flights scheduled from China to Batam, or a total of six round-trip flights. In August, there will be eight round-trip flights. The maximum capacity of the Boeing 737-900, at 212 passengers, will be optimized," Nico said.
Lion Air has also opened direct flights from secondary cities in China, such as Wuhan, Macau, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Shanghai, due to large market potentials and a staggering number of residents.
Tourism Minister Arief Yahya expressed joy following the opening of direct flights from Changsa to Batam.
"It is perfect to open direct flights to this secondary city. Chinese tourists are large in numbers, where the outbound number reaches 120 million annually. They need simple travel routes," Arief said.
Chinese tourists, according to the minister, have been targeted as the number of visits into the country reached 1.2 million out of the annual outbound tourists.
The government now expects up to two million Chinese tourists to Indonesia annually.
"The target is realistic. Aside from maximizing promotions, I expect more nonstop flights serving China-Indonesia, both on regular or unscheduled flights," Arief added.
Tourists from China are expected to provide $2.1 million to Indonesia's budding tourism sector.