EU ban on Indonesian airlines remains in place


Despite evident progress on safety improvements for Indonesian airlines since the EU initiated a ban on all Indonesian carriers last June, the EU did not lift its current ban. “Clear progress is there, but more effort is still needed to make sure that all the deficiencies have been tackled and that we can lift our ban. That is not the case yet. We still need some improvements,” declared Michele Cercone, spokesman for EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot. The decision was viewed with disappointment in Indonesia.

It is true that deregulation in air transport in Indonesia over the last decade has raised the safety issue as the industry witnessed a worsening of safety standards due to the lack of financial maneuver for airlines and a Civil Aviation Department submerged by the number of air operators and unable to check properly on safety issues.

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The EU ban was then seen as an electro-chock but had also as a salutary measure for Indonesia’s airline industry. The Indonesian Ministry of Transport in coordination with the Department of Civil Aviation issued earlier this year stricter rules with a classification of airlines. Officials assess the performance of the airlines against 20 criteria, adapted from those applied by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), allocating points for compliance with standards. Based on the total number of points, airlines are ranked in three categories:
Category 1- Airline meets requirements of the civil aviation safety regulations
Category 2 – Airline meets minimal requirements of civil aviation safety regulations, with more requirements to be implemented.
Category 3 – Airline meets minimal requirements of civil aviation safety regulations but as other requirements have not been implemented, they endanger safety levels.

Category 3 airlines which fail to improve their standard have their license temporarily removed and then permanently revoked if problems persist. Stricter rules had already an effect. If the Civil Aviation suspended 11 airlines from 2003 to 2006, 15 airlines have been suspended in 2007. Assessments on safety have been issued in March, June and October. In June only Garuda was ranked in category 1 and was joined in October by five more airlines (see table).

What does the EU ban mean for airlines? No Indonesian airline flew to Europe prior to the June ban as Garuda, the country’s national carrier, pulled out in 2004 from Amsterdam. However, the ban means that European travelers are not covered by insurances when flying on Indonesian carriers. According to Asnawi Bahar, vice chairman ASITA, the Association of Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies in an interview with Indonesia’s official news agency ANTARA from, “the ban has caused a substantial decline in the number of foreign tourists especially from Europe coming to Indonesia.” Many destinations such as the Toraja in South Sulawesi, Komodo Island or Papua have been affected by the ban as they do not have international flights from foreign carriers.

However, in contrary to last July, where the ban generated an outcry from Indonesian authorities, reactions have been more moderate this time. Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal declared on Thursday that the country’s airlines should strive to upgrade their services following the European Union’s updated list of banned airlines. “The European Commission is not yet sure our country’s airlines have improved and consider our list a preliminary move. We still need to convince our commitment to improvement,” the minister told Indonesian

Vice President Jusuf Kalla has ordered national flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia to seek the advice from a European Union aviation consultant on how to improve its flight safety and quality standards. “European Union aviation safety and quality standards are better than those of any other country in the world, even of the United States. They have their own standards and thus we have to improve ours,” Kalla declared after hearing the news. According to Kalla, Indonesia should improve its flight safety and quality standards rather than merely lodging a protest against the EU ban.

Indonesia hopes now to see the ban reviewed by early 2008, on time before the airlines summer season. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso promised to send a team of experts back to Indonesia to speed up a review of airline safety in the country during his visit to Jakarta last week. “There should be another assessment prior to the commission’s next meeting in January 2008. We hope it could be accelerated with support from EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. If the EU ban is not lifted by 2008, we will protest.” added Jusman.

Last July, Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has warned of possible retaliation against the European Union’s ban on all Indonesian airlines with a possible ban for Indonesian citizens to fly with European airlines as a last option.

Despite the ban, Garuda Indonesia still plans to reopen its Jakarta-Amsterdam route by the autumn of 2008. The airline is actively looking for a new aircraft to serve the route. “Based on the commission’s audit results, Garuda has met the international aviation standards, even though there are still minor problems” indicates Garuda spokesperson Pudjobroto.

It is most probable that the EU next step will be a partial lift on Indonesian carriers with the Government recommending Garuda, Mandala Air and charter carrier Prime Air. A team of auditors from the European Union are currently visiting the three Indonesian airliners.

List of Indonesian airlines with their safety certification
AIRLINE AOC 121 (operates with aircraft of at least 35 passengers)

Safety category Operation
Garuda Indonesia 1 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Merpati Nusantara Airlines 1 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Lion Mentari Airlines 1 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Wing Abadi Airlines 1 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Indonesia Air Asia 1 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Mandala Airlines 1 Scheduled Passenger Airline
AdamSky Connection Airlines 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Batavia Airlines 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Kartika Airlines 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Riau Airlines 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Sriwijaya Air 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Trans Wisata Air 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Travel Express Aviation Service 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Trigana Air Service 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
PT. Dirgantara Air Service 2 Scheduled Passenger Airline
Tri MG Intra Asia Airlines 2 Cargo
Megantara 2 Cargo
Republic Express Airlines 2 Cargo
Manunggal Air Service 2 Cargo
Jatayu Air 3 AOC revoked
(Source: Department of Civil Aviation)