Airlines the world over might be grappling with flat traveler numbers as sagging economies prompt consumers to holiday close to home and companies to trim expenses. But Indonesia is set to record a 13 percent increase in passenger numbers buoyed by a middle-class with increasingly elaborate travel tastes and the budgets to match.
Herry S. Gumay, director general of air transportation at the Transportation Ministry, said that the number of people taking to the skies in Indonesia will jump to more than 70 million people this year, compared to 62 million in 2011.
The official said the growing economy and strong purchasing power had allowed more Indonesians to travel by air instead of by land. “With the peak season around the corner, 70 million will be met or even exceeded,” Herry said.
Many Indonesians will travel ahead of Christmas and new year next month.
Tengku Burhanudin, secretary general of the Indonesia National Air Carriers Association, said the sector was benefiting from broader economic advancement.
“The growth in domestic airlines is the backbone of the industry,” Tengku said.
Indonesia’s economy, which expanded by 6.2 percent in the third quarter of this year from a year earlier, is forecast by the government to grow 6.5 percent this year.
Tengku said that the rate of increase in air travel typically doubles the pace of economic growth. Indonesia’s growing middle class prefers to take to the air with its newfound disposable income, he added.
Still, the number international air travelers rose 7.9 percent in the first eight months of this year, to 7 million passengers, from 6.5 million during the same period last year, according to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS).
The number of domestic air travelers increased 14 percent, to 24 million passengers, during the same period. That would lift the total number to 31 million.
The rapid growth poses many challenges for the industry and government. The nation’s aviation safety record is poor, prompting some consumers to think twice before taking to the skies, and poor infrastructure often leads to delays.
Industry analysts said that national airline Garuda Indonesia should be of the main beneficiaries from the rise in air travel. (Jakarta Globe)