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Six Garuda B737-400s Seized by Customs Officers

Fines, Flight Delays and Cancellation Suffered When Indonesian Custom Office Gets Tough with Garuda Indonesia.

(10/29/2007) Asia aviation soared to new heights on Thursday, October 25, 2007, with the inaugural flight of the Airbus 380 from Singapore to Sydney, while in Indonesia aviation circles were reaping publicity of a less favorable kind when six Boeing 737-400 aircraft leased by national flag-carrier Garuda Indonesia were seized by Indonesian customs and excise officials in Jakarta.

The seizure and sealing of the aircraft by customs officers left many of Garuda's domestic flight schedules in utter disarray, delaying some flights by as much as four hours and causing the outright cancellation of at least four departures. Three Bali flights (GA 400, GA 524 and GA 610) all suffered delays due to the announced customs seizure of between 15 minutes and 4.5 hours. GA 402 bound for Denpasar was cancelled.

Customs officers seized the aircraft because the national carrier had failed to secure the required permits to allow the airplanes leased from overseas owners to operate routes within Indonesia. Branded as "illegal imports," the airplanes were all arrested by Indonesian customs officers, placed under custom seals and towed to an isolated section of Sukarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta.

According to a Custom's spokesperson, Garuda managed to supply the necessary documentation by mid-day Wednesday, allowing the planes to recommence scheduled service on Thursday, October 25, 2007.

Custom officials at Jakarta's airport defended the seizure of the aircraft, claiming that Garuda Indonesia had been repeatedly reminded since May 2007 to file the necessary paperwork for the leased aircraft as required under law.

Leased aircraft in Indonesia are allowed to operate under special "short-term import" permits of one year's duration, renewable for a maximum of three years, after which the planes must be re-exported back to their country of origin.

Because of Garuda's failure to have its importation paperwork in order the airline was fined Rp. 150 million (approximately US$16,300), a sizeable discount from the possible maximum fine of Rp. 20 billion (approximately US$2.18 million) that could have been imposed for operating the aircraft without the required temporary importation licenses.

In a related development, detik.com reports that Garuda Indonesia has suspended a Vice-President within their technical division for his failure to file the necessary documentation with the Custom's Department.