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Budget carrier to launch ‘unique’ routes in Indonesia

Budget airline Indonesia AirAsia (IAA) says it will open new routes linking several Indonesian tourist destinations to major ASEAN cities to support tourism in the country.

IAA spokeswoman Audrey Progastama Petriny said in Jakarta on Wednesday that the airline would soon link destinations such Mataram in West Nusa Tenggara to major cities in ASEAN such as Singapore, sovaldi and Bangkok, Thailand.

“New, ‘unique’ routes will be launched very soon because Indonesia and ASEAN are a huge potential market for growth,” she told The Jakarta Post.

She said that 45 percent of the Air Asia Group’s routes were ‘unique’ routes that linked one city to another city that no other airline served.

In Indonesia, the unique routes that IAA has offered for several years include service between Bandung, West Java; and Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Yogyakarta and Singapore; Kuala Lumpur, Surabaya, East Java, Penang, Malaysia, and Bangkok; and Medan, North Sumatra, and Bangkok.

IAA would open new international and domestic routes in anticipation of the arrival of five new Airbus A320 aircraft in 2012, Audrey said.

The airline currently operates 16 Airbus aircraft.

Audrey added that IAA was not afraid of emerging low-cost carriers such as Citilink, flag airline Garuda Indonesia’s budget division, as IAA was leading the push to connect ASEAN member nations.

“Our flights connect all 10 ASEAN countries and our next step is enhancing route connectivity and flight frequency,” she said.

One potentially successful route for tourism and business was service between Jakarta; Denpasar, Bali; and Phuket, Thailand, she said.

IAA transported 4 million Indonesians to domestic and international destinations as of October and was optimistic that it could meet or exceed a target of 4.5 million passengers by December, Audrey added.

“Looking at current demand, I think we can reach up to 5 million passengers by the end of this year,” she added.

AirAsia now has five hubs in Indonesia: Jakarta, Denpasar, Medan, Bandung and Surabaya.

Based on recent data from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), international visitor arrivals to Southeast Asia topped 72.9 million in 2010, up 12.4 percent from 2009.

Audrey said that Indonesia AirAsia would expand its market by promoting ASEAN’s brand to the international market next year, focusing on promoting the “four pillars” of culture, cuisine, eco-tourism and business.

According to the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), the number of foreign tourists visiting Indonesia as of September reached 5.61 million, up 8.26 percent from the same period last year.

The Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry is expecting 7.7 million people to visit Indonesia in 2011, up 10 percent from 7 million people in 2010.

Meanwhile, Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia, IAA’s parent company, said its net profits slumped by more than half in the third quarter as fuel prices surged, warning that the next four months would be challenging.

AirAsia said in a statement released late Tuesday that its net profits fell 53 percent to 152.3 million Malaysian ringgit (US$47.8 million) from 327.3 million ringgit in the same period last year.

Based on forward booking trends, AirAsia said the outlook for its Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian operations for the 3-month run up to December was positive, warning that the outlook “should be seen in the context of the current high price of oil and aviation fuel.” (nfo)

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