Sunday, October 16, 2011

Garuda targets Korean travellers

Garuda Indonesia, after years of concentration on safety improvements, is preparing to aggressively target Korean passengers, adding new flights and hiring Korean flight attendants.

“Korea is a prospective market for us. Business between Korea and Indonesia is growing strongly,” said Emirsyah Satar, chief executive of Garuda Indonesia, explaining the company’s strategies for Korea, currently its sixth-largest market outside Indonesia.

“You will see more Garuda flights in the next few years,” the executive said in a press conference last week.

Currently, the Indonesian flag carrier flies to Incheon only, taking Koreans to Jakarta six times a week and to the resort island of Bali five times.

Garuda will go daily on both routes in the coming weeks ― the Incheon-Jakarta route from the middle of December and the Incheon-Bali route from the start of November.

The demand for air travel between Korea and Indonesia is expected to grow steadily, its officials said. The number of Korean visitors to Indonesia topped 300,000 last year, up 17 per cent from a year earlier. There are more than 50,000 Koreans residing in Jakarta and elsewhere in the country, making up the largest expat community in Indonesia.

On top of increased flights, Garuda is striving to improve in-flight services.

Agus Priyanto, an executive in charge of services, said the firm’s efforts to meet the needs of Koreans go from a little detail such as their preference of slippers to socks to their desire for Internet access on board.

“We’re trying to provide full connectivity on flights to Korea,” Priyanto said, explaining local regulations as the hindrance.

As part of its efforts to provide tailored services to Koreans, Garuda has hired 22 new Korean flight attendants early this year, boosting the number of Korean crew members to 33.

“We’re confident that Korean passengers will recognise our efforts,” Priyanto said.

A key reason for the confidence is the “Visa On Board” service, which is offered exclusively on some Garuda flights.

Two immigration officers, on board its flights from Incheon to Jakarta, check passengers’ passports and process their visa, saving them from the trouble of having to line up at immigration counters on the ground. The service will be expanded soon to include the Incheon-Bali route, the executive said.

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