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Garuda Ambivalent on Bali?

While Criticism Mounts Regarding Garuda’s Decision to Drop Bali as an International Air Hub, Airline Now Suggests it is Only Considering Such a Move.

(11/12/2006) The Indonesian language Bisnis Bali reports that the plan by Garuda Indonesia to end direct flights to Bali, [See: Garuda Drops Bali as a Secondary Hub], have greatly disappointed the Island’s tourism industry who see the decision by the National Carrier as "shocking" within the context of the many recent events that have besieged Bali.

The Head of the Bali Tourism Authority, Gede Nurjaya, told Bisnis Bali that the Airline's plans are "unfair" complicating Bali's role as an international tourism destination. Explained Nurjaya: "this policy will have an effect on Bali's tourism. . . it will cause a 'shock' for many, especially in the currently difficult situation.”

Nurjaya explained how Garuda’s plans to stop direct flights to Bali will make it increasingly difficult to attract tourists to the Island. Given the depressed state of tourism, he insisted, Bali needs the full support of airlines, especially the support of Garuda as the National Carrier.

"Separate from the problems within the management structure of Garuda, the plan (to stop direct flights) will at least temporarily shock the tourism industry," elaborated Nurjaya. The top government tourism official for Bali insisted that a solution must be found including the possibility of shared operations with other carriers to Bali.

Nurjaya questioned how a number of international carriers, including Singapore Airlines, Air Asia, Thai Airways and Cathay Pacific can routinely fly to Bali, but how is it that the Indonesian National Carrier has to end direct service to Bali?

Nurjaya called for research to determine Garuda contribution to Bali’s tourism in order to know the true impact of the Airline’s decision to end direct service. Pointing to the improving arrivals from Europe despite Garuda' withdrawal from that market, Nurjaya hoped that the effect of the National Carrier decision would be mitigated.

Open Skies for Bali?

Bisnis Bali quotes the Bali Chairman of the Association of Indonesian Travel Agents (ASITA), Al Purwa, who said he feared that Bali would lose its appeal in some markets, particularly the largest market of Japan which only stays for 3-5 days in Bali who will find the long delays in flying to Bali a disincentive to holiday here.

Expressing his amazement that foreign carriers can viably operate direct flights to Bali while the National Carrier cannot, he questioned why applications from foreign carriers for additional seats or landing rights to Bali encounter problems in the approval process? The ASITA Chairman for Bali said air access for foreign carriers to Bali should be liberalized in the face of the incapability of Garuda to operate direct flights to the Island.

Garuda Denies Hub Close-Down News

Meanwhile, TempoInteraktif reports that Garuda Indonesia is denying widespread reports in the national press indicating that Bali will be abandoned as a secondary air hub. A Garuda spokesperson, Pujobroto, insists that the Airline is only evaluating its networks, including the effectiveness of international routes to Bali.

Speaking to Tempo, Pujobroto said there were already many airlines that fly directly to Bali and that "not all" tourist come directly to the Island, with some stopping for business in Jakarta first. Because of this, he explained, Garuda simply wishes to provide the option of visiting Bali through Jakarta.