Indonesia's transport minister tells airlines not to buy European aircraft due to EU ban

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jusman Syafii Djamal, minister of transport for Indonesia, has recommended that local airlines should not purchase aircraft from European manufacturers, such as Airbus. It is a direct response to the decision of the European Union (EU) to add all 51 of Indonesia's air carriers to the list of air carriers banned in the EU.

The EU made the decision to ban the Indonesian air traffic due to a string of accidents in the country, including two major disasters this year - the losses of Adam Air Flight 574 and Garuda Indonesia Flight 200, which killed 102 and 21 people respectively.

We recommend not buying planes from Europe ... as long as the EU ban is still in place.

—Transportation minister Jusman Syafii Djamal

"We do not need to buy aircraft from Europe as long as the flying ban stays unrevoked," quoted Djamal as saying, although Xinhua translated the quote as: "As long as the ban is still in place, it is better we do not buy [aircraft] from Europe."

"If aircraft are purchased and registered as Indonesian [in Europe], we are worried the planes won't be able to fly to Indonesia because Indonesian airlines' aircraft are banned from flying over Europe," he continued. Djamal is concerned that instead new European planes would have to be flown into Indonesia prior to registration, with higher costs incurred as a result.

The announcement, which had already been issued to airlines two weeks ago, was made at a joint press conference with Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla in Jakarta. Djamal told reporters that he felt the best option was the lifting of the ban. "The easiest way is to lift the ban, because the ban goes against the principle of open sky policy," he said.

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has already postponed a diplomatic visit to Europe, citing the ban as his reason. Normally, the president flies on an aircraft operated by state-owned national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia.

A European Commission review was held in Brussels on November 28. Although bans were lifted on Pakistani flag carrier Pakistan International Airlines and Surinam carrier Blue Wing Airlines, the sanctions on Indonesian airlines remained in force.

Multiple local air carriers are considering the possibility of fleet expansions, with some evaluating Airbus jets as possible options. Airbus, in particular, charge an added cost for taking an aircraft to Indonesia for registration. "There is an additional cost that must be paid by Indonesian airlines that buy the (Airbus) plane from Europe, US$200,000 ," said Djamal. "Because of that we recommend not buying planes from Europe. As long as the EU ban is still in place, there will be additional payment."

However, he went on to say that should a manufacturer be willing to pay the cost itself, he did not object to the purchase of the aircraft. He has also confirmed that no Indonesian officers will be sent to Europe to assist with the situation.