Labuan Bajo, the town on the western part of the island of Flores, which is the departure point for a visit to the Komodo National Park, is today busy constructing the expansion of its Komodo Airport and terminal building. When completed in early September 2013, Komodo Airport will have a 2,150-meter-long runway that will be able to accommodate the larger jet aircrafts like Boeing 737s, said Fuadani, Head of the Labuan Bajo airport recently.
Currently the airport’s 1,850-meter runway is only able to receive small passenger jets and propeller planes that have a maximum carrying capacity of 50 passengers like the ATR 72s, Fokker 50s, and MA60s. Its terminal building has until now also been only a simple long building.
To extend the runway, two hills near the coast are to be cut off – they are the Bukit Kelumpang and Bukit Cinta. Work on the Kelumpang is almost done, while work on the second hill is to start soon.
In the past few years, Komodo has experienced a surge in tourists wishing to see the Komodo dragons in their natural habitat as well as visit Flores Island with all its natural and cultural attractions. A number of star-rated hotels have been built in Labuan Bajo to cater to the increasing number of visitors, while Komodo has become an important destination for tourists who come here by air and on cruise ships.
In September, Komodo and the islands of East Nusatenggara province will host the annual Sail Indonesia, a 3-month yacht rally between Darwin, Australia, and Singapore through the Indonesian archipelago, which this year focuses on Komodo and neighboring islands. This year’s rally is, therefore, called Sail Komodo 2013.
Organizers of Sail Komodo have informed that to date already 130 countries have confirmed participation. The rally will leave Darwin on July 27 and enter Kupang on July 29, where the Sail Komodo rally is expected to be flagged off by Vice President Boediono, while President Yudhoyono himself is scheduled to officiate at the pinnacle of Sail Komodo at the port of Labuan Bajo on September 14, 2013. Within this framework, the Indonesian President is also scheduled to inaugurate the opening of the brand new Komodo Airport in Labuan Bajo.
In preparation of this international event and anticipating the rise in visitors to this emerging Indonesian destination, President Yudhoyono had ordered the extension of the runway to receive larger aircrafts, to be complemented with a more proper terminal building.
Fuadani further reported that the Komodo Airport will have a brand-new, 3-story terminal building covering 3,300 square meters, which at the moment is 50% completed. Final work on its construction is soon to resume to meet the September deadline.
Once operational, Labuan Bajo’s Komodo Airport will be able to accommodate 700 passengers a day, up from the present 400 passengers per day.
With the airport’s added capacity, more airlines with larger capacity will be able to fly to Labuan Bajo, so that the airfare to the destination is expected to drop from the present Rp.1.4 million fare from Bali, to around Rp. 500,000, said Fuadani.