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Indonesian carriers pledge to observe health protocols as domestic travel opens up

Indonesian carriers pledge to observe health protocols as domestic travel opens up

Garuda has temporarily cut salaries to help cope with an air travel slump sparked by the global pandemic AFP/SONNY TUMBELAKA

JAKARTA: Indonesian carriers have pledged to implement health protocols and social distancing, after being given approval by the government to up their operating capacity to 70 per cent for domestic routes.

The country’s largest privately run airline Lion Air Group, which comprises low-cost carrier Lion Air, Wings Air, and full-service carrier Batik Air resumed domestic flights on Wednesday (Jun 10). 

The group previously operated its planes intermittently, citing difficulties in ensuring that all passengers had met travel requirements.

Mr Danang Mandala Prihantoro, the spokesman of Lion Air Group, said to ensure the safety of everyone, passengers must show the results of a swab test, a COVID-19 rapid test or a health certificate issued by a doctor or a health clinic stating that they are healthy.

FILE PHOTO: A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 airplane parked on the tarmac of Soekarno Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan/File Photo​​​​​​​

“Our crew will also always be checked and they must be cleared of COVID-19 before flying,” Mr Prihantoro told CNA.

“We conduct both polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and rapid tests on them," he said. Reserve crews will be put on standby to cater for last-minute changes in manpower deployment, he added. 

If there are a lot of passengers and some have to be seated next to each other, Lion Air Group will try to seat those who live in the same household or travelling in the same group together.  

The move comes as transport minister Budi Karya Sumadi said on Tuesday that anyone who wants to fly can do so, after being declared healthy and complying with the health protocols.

Previously, the airlines were allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, and for essential business travel only.

READ: Garuda grounds aircraft after passenger on Bali-Shanghai flight tested positive for COVID-19

Meanwhile, Vice President Corporate Secretary of Garuda Indonesia Mitra Piranti also stated that the national carrier is committed to focusing on all health protocols as its main goal is to provide a sense of security and comfort for passengers.

Garuda said that its planes are equipped with HEPA filters, which is an air filtration system that is able to absorb airborne viruses and bacteria and maintain good air circulation in the aircraft cabins.

“In addition, we will also take preventive measures by using single use material for serving food and implementing physical distancing as much as possible by the crew.

“We are also minimising the potential for cross-contamination in the airplanes by eliminating a number of airplane service facilities such as in-flight reading magazines,” Ms Piranti told CNA.

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wearing protective masks carry their luggage at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, in Tangerang near Jakarta, Indonesia. (Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

She added that even though the government has allowed planes to operate at 70 per cent capacity, Garuda Indonesia will review the flight capacity after adjusting the configuration of the aircraft, while taking into account physical distancing.

Despite these various measures, aviation analyst Brendan Sobie pointed out that there is currently an effort under way globally to harmonise regulations and requirements.

Thus, it is important to have uniformity as it could be challenging for airlines to implement the measures, while confusing passengers, he said. 

"Indonesia, unfortunately, has not been consistent with its own requirements and regulations, flip-flopping several times.

"I would urge Indonesia to look at the standards that are being recommended globally and try to conform. This will become particularly important when international travel resumes," said the founder of Singapore-based Sobie Aviation.

READ: Snaking queues at Jakarta airport as crowds ignore COVID-19 distancing rules

Low-cost carrier AirAsia has yet to resume its operations in Indonesia but said in a newsletter that it hopes to be able to fly in the archipelago soon.

The airline said that it has implemented various initiatives to minimise physical contact, while disinfecting its aircraft routinely. 

The relaxation in the Indonesian aviation industry was made after the head of the COVID-19 task force said that 136 cities and regencies can prepare to enter a new normal as they have reported a small number of coronavirus cases.

South-east Asia’s biggest economy reported its first COVID-19 cases in early March, followed by the implementation of a partial lockdown in Jakarta in April and in some other regions.

Jakarta eased the restrictions last Friday, after seeing a decline in confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths.

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Source: CNA/ks(aw)


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