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Indonesia's booming budget airlines gear up to spread wings even further

JAKARTA -- Indonesia's low-cost carriers are gearing up for further expansion to take a larger share of the country's growing air transportation market.

Most budget carriers serving domestic routes have ordered more airplanes to increase flight frequency on existing routes and to serve new routes.

Lion Air, for example, which is the largest player and currently operates 87 Boeing aircraft, will take delivery of 12 B737-900 extended range twinjets this year. “We recently opened the Jakarta-Jayapura-Merauke night flight and will soon open three more domestic routes,” Lion Air general affairs director Edward Sirait told The Jakarta Post recently.

The new domestic routes are Surabaya-Ambon, Surabaya-Palu and Batam-Denpasar. At present, Lion serves 36 destinations, including Singapore as well as Kuala Lumpur and Penang in Malaysia.

He also said that Lion's regional subsidiary, Wings Air, would take delivery of six turbo-prop aircraft ATR-72s, increasing its fleet to 31 aircraft. “The new ATRs will enable us to strengthen our city hopper routes in Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan this year,” he said.

Existing city hopper routes that Wings will add more flights to are Medan-Gunung Sitoli, Medan-South Tapanuli, Malang-Denpasar and Malang-Bandung, he said.

In the next few years, the airline will have 60 ATRs to help strengthen its short-range network in Sulawesi, Maluku, Nusa Tenggara and Papua.

Edward also said that the airline would have 178 airplanes by 2016, enabling the airline to connect to more than 60 destinations in the country and ASEAN.

“Connectivity is the key in the country's airline industry. The synergy between Lion and Wings will help our passengers go to any place across Indonesia,” he added.

From January to March 2012, the number of Lion and Wings passengers had risen 10 percent from 7.7 million to 8 million, he said. Next year, Lion will also kick off Batik Air, a new full-service airline that will fly to Australia, South Asia and East Asia.

In addition, national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia's budget airline Citilink will take delivery of 11 Airbus 320s, increasing its fleet to 20 aircraft by the end of this year, Garuda's marketing director Elisa Lumbantoruan said.

“With 20 new aircraft, Citilink will be able to connect Jakarta with other cities such as Padang, Pekanbaru and Yogyakarta,” he told the Post.

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