Indonesia has been going through a quiet economic revolution and part of that has been the opening of Indonesia’s skies to low budget airlines. This has fuelled a change in the way most Indonesians travel, and opened up previously unknown destinations to local tourism.
Before Indonesia had an open skies policy, most Indonesians used to travel on long journeys bus or a boat. To many migrants who flocked to the nation’s cities, this often meant traveling for days, to get home to see their loved ones.
All this has changed as many more destinations have opened up, and airports have sprung up in the most isolated and unlikely places. Average Indonesians are on the move, as air flights still remain low compared to International prices- largely fuelled by the country’s cheap oil.
This quiet revolution in Indonesian air travel, was not without its critics. During the early days of deregulation, some airlines sprung up selling cheap tickets, but cut back on safety to make a profit. Adam Air was one infamous example, but after one plane simply disappeared into the sea, and several accidents. They were closed down.
The days of the ‘wild west’ feel of flying domestically in Indonesia has changed. Safety measures have meant that ticket prices have increased, but so has the choice of destinations- and most domestic airlines can now fly again to Europe, and other areas of the World.
There are over half a dozen low budget airlines in Indonesia. Some are regional, ferrying workers to far off Islands in Riau province, to national airlines which ply all the major cities in Indonesia. Some airlines specialize in more remoter destinations, opening them up to tourism and boosting their local economies, offering Indonesians weekend packages to more exotic, and previously neglected destinations. Boosting local business, and connecting the local population to cheaper trade routes.
Sukarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, is the main regional hub for domestic airlines, and it resembles more an upscale bus terminal nowadays, with affordable food courts, and a wide array of safe transport to the city. But so has Batam in Riau, or Makassar in Sulewesi, and a wide range of lesser airports like Surakarta airport in central Java that has flights to Singapore, and Malaysia.
Indonesian airlines also have adopted a sophisticated booking system, with etickets, and a payment system through local ATM’s. Prices are based on the European model, depending on the season, and how long you book in advice, may differ. Consumers in Indonesia are kept up to date by the airlines, receiving regular text messages offering “specials” on certain routes- and passengers can relax in private lounges offered by the airlines, if they become members of their “club.”
The benefits of Indonesia’s open skies policy has shielded the country from the recession, and created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Businesses are expanding throughout Indonesia, to cater for the growing demand in inter-island commerce, and tourism.
Yet the main benefit has been for the Indonesians themselves, who now can easily visit there loved ones, and move around more quickly to seek business or newer employment opportunities. Whilst International tourism should grow as the knowledge of this quiet revolution should attract thousands of visitors – who can now directly reach most destinations in Indonesia, within a few hours.