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The Republic of Indonesia is an archipelago comprising 17,508 islands located in South East Asia. With a population of 230 million people, it is the world’s fourth most populous nation. With poor land-based transport infrastructure, aviation is vital to Indonesia and its economy. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation within the Indonesian Ministry of Transportation is responsible for the formulation, implementation and enforcement of aviation policy while ensuring that aviation in the country is reliable, safe and efficient. The national airline of Indonesia, Garuda Indonesia (IATA: GA), is wholly owned by the Indonesian Government and is based at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Jakarta. Servicing a number of destinations in South East and East Asia, the Middle East and Australia, Garuda recently resumed flights to Europe following the lifting of a ban by the European Union forbidding any Indonesian carrier from operating in European airspace after a series of safety concerns were raised.
Indonesia is the biggest aviation market in the ASEAN group of nations however is not yet a full member of the ASEAN open sky agreement throughout S.E Asia. The ASEAN open skies agreement plans to lift regional flying restrictions on member country airlines by 2015, Indonesia is considering opening up 5 international airports under the policy (Jakarta, Medan, Bali, Surabaya and Makassar). Access to foreign carriers on domestic routes will be disallowed, while international flights will be subject to bilateral agreements.
Airports in Indonesia
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Indonesia’s Merpati Nusantara Airlines is facing a financial crisis and is looking to recapitalise and restructure its network to survive. The government-owned carrier has already shrunk in recent years while all its competitors and Indonesia’s overall domestic market have expanded rapidly. But Merpati has held onto some trunk routes, where it competes against larger and stronger carriers.
The most logical solution is for Merpati to abandon competing against Indonesia’s main carriers and focus entirely on regional routes to remote areas. But the number of regional routes requiring government subsidy are declining.
More efficient Lion Air has a fast-growing regional subsidiary operating ATR 72s and is looking to add smaller turboprops to access an even larger chunk of Indonesia’s vast regional market. Garuda is also introducing ATR 72s in Nov-2013, leaving even less room for a government-backed regional carrier. The Indonesian government seems to recognise there is no longer a need to keep Merpati running.
Whisper it quietly, but Japan's low-cost carriers appear to be cannibalising traffic at All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. ANA and JAL carried 19% fewer passengers between Osaka and Sapporo in 2012 than 2010 despite the overall market growing 20%. This goes against the story all parties tell that LCCs are only increasing, not cannibalising, volumes. The cannibalisation is confined, so far, but there are signs of concern. ANA and JAL saw reduced traffic in 2012 on overlapping LCC routes despite overall 2012 traffic being the strongest in nearly five years.
ANA and JAL are responding differently to LCCs. The nuances reflect their wider outlook – and fears. JAL is more aggressively cutting capacity on overlapping LCC routes while ANA is sometimes growing. In the medium-term, JAL expects to cut overall domestic capacity in line with the country's shrinking nature while ANA plans growth. JAL's cuts have been rewarded with higher load factors while ANA's growth has seen lower load factors, but all load factors need improvement.
Indonesia AirAsia and Tigerair Mandala have unveiled plans for further international expansion, with both low-cost carriers in particular targeting the Indonesia-Hong Kong market. Indonesia AirAsia, which is already the largest carrier in the Indonesian international market, is also planning to launch services to Vietnam and India.
Tigerair Mandala has announced the launch of services to Hong Kong from Bali and Surabaya from Dec-2013, supplementing its relatively new Jakarta-Hong Kong route. Indonesia AirAsia is preparing to also launch Surabaya-Hong Kong service in 2014 and is looking at serving Hong Kong from Medan.
The AirAsia expansion could result in the carrier widening the gap in Indonesia’s international market over Lion Air, which is the dominant player in the Indonesian domestic market but has been slower in pursuing international expansion. The forthcoming expansion from Mandala could also result in Tigerair overtaking Lion as a larger LCC group in Indonesia’s international market.
A new air services agreement recently forged between Mexico and Indonesia opens up an opportunity for a codeshare between Aeromexico and Garuda, which in early 2014 will be joining the Mexican flag carrier in the SkyTeam alliance. The expected partnership should result in the first of many codeshares between carriers from Southeast Asia and Latin America.
Southeast Asian and Latin American carriers are starting to seek out opportunities to partner with each other as ties and trade between their regions increase. The current lack of partnerships between Southeast Asian and Latin American carriers give Gulf and European carriers an advantage in carrying passengers between two of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets.
Aeromexico is the only Latin American carrier serving Asia, where it sees opportunities for expansion using its new Boeing 787 fleet. But Aeromexico only serves North Asia and will need to rely on partnerships to serve Southeast Asia.
Southeast Asia airline market sees more rapid growth & high international low-cost penetration rates
Southeast Asia continues to post some of the highest growth rates in the global aviation industry, driven primarily by expansion in the region’s booming low-cost sector.
LCCs now account for over 50% of capacity in Southeast Asia’s four largest domestic markets – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. Even more impressively, LCCs have been able to rapidly claim about a 50% share in the intra-Southeast Asia international market.
But there has also been growth in 2013 at nearly all of the region’s flag carriers. A large portion of this growth has been on regional routes as full-service operators have been able to join the LCCs in taking advantage of the generally favourable economic conditions in Southeast Asia.
All Nippon Airways chose the name "Vanilla Air" for its LCC in part for Vanilla Air's popularity, simplicity and inoffensive connotation. Those characteristics will be the initial theme for Vanilla Air's route network, as the carrier largely sticks to the network created by AirAsia Japan, the JV that will end operations in Oct-2013 before re-branding to Vanilla Air in Nov-2013.
Vanilla Air's initial route network from its Tokyo Narita hub will include Okinawa, Sapporo, Seoul Incheon and Taipei Taoyuan. Vanilla intends to later launch services to beach markets like Guam and Saipan. ANA ended Guam services in 2009 and has not served Saipan in recent history.
A later phase could see Vanilla Air serve Indonesia and other points within eight hours' flying, which will presumably require an aircraft other than the A320 Vanilla plans to launch with. Vanilla has flagged that A330 operations could be a possibility in the future. This raises concern as Vanilla Air will already be challenged to achieve a strict cost base and have efficient operations. With plans to offer free checked luggage to all passengers, Vanilla Air may be morphing from a low-cost carrier to a hybrid leisure carrier. But, unless a clear vision is specified from the start, erosion of low cost objectives will be inevitable.