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Indonesian Airlines Welcome Access to Europe

  • Katie Hamann

The European Commission has partially lifted a ban on Indonesian airlines entering European air space. The ban was issued two years ago after the International Civil Aviation Authority identified 121 safety problems with Indonesian airlines.

Indonesian airlines were banned from entering European air space in June 2007 after several fatal accidents.

In March of that year a flight operated by the national carrier, Garuda, crash-landed in central Java killing 21 people. In early 2006, an Adam Air flight disappeared on a flight from the Javanese city of Surabaya to the island province of Sulawesi with 102 people on board.

The Indonesian government lobbied strongly for the ban to be lifted. The decision incensed Indonesian airline operators and government leaders. Some public officials declared they would not travel to Europe until Garuda was allowed to land there.

Domestic operators also complained, saying they lost business after travel agents advised visitors not to fly with local airlines.

The president of the Garuda Pilots Association, Stephanus Geraldus, welcomes the European Union's decision to end the band. He says it will improve Indonesia's tourism industry.

"As long as I know the passengers from Europe are not able to continue direct from Europe to Indonesia because of the ban, because there is no insurance for that," he said. "So we are happy that the EU is open already and removed the ban, it means then that passengers are able to fly direct from Europe."

The EU's air safety arm approved flights by Garuda Airlines, Mandala Airlines and two charter operators, Airfast Indonesia and Prime Air.

The EU says it recognized the "significant improvements" and accomplishments made by the Indonesian civil aviation authority in the area of safety.

Work with European aviation safety experts, the Indonesian Directorate General for Civil Aviation has improved technical oversight of airlines, created clearer safety codes and granted its aviation regulator stronger powers.

Garuda was the only Indonesian airline to fly to Europe but it ceased in 2004 because of a downturn in tourist numbers. The national carrier says it plans to reestablish routes to Europe next year.

All other Indonesian airlines remained banned from entering European airspace. An EU official says their status is under review.