Indonesian Airlines Can Fly to the U.S. Again

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A Garuda Indonesia plane takes off at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. The Southeast nation’s transport ministry said it received a letter from the U.S. embassy saying Indonesia got elevated to Category 1, meaning local carriers including Garuda can fly to the U.S. and enter code-share agreements with U.S. airlines.

Photographer: Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg
  • Federal Aviation Administration raises rating to Category 1
  • Move seen to aid flag carrier Garuda’s expansion plans

Indonesia, an aviation market with one of the world’s worst safety records, had its air-safety rating upgraded by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, a move that may add momentum to flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia’s expansion plans.

The Southeast nation’s transport ministry said it received a letter from the U.S. embassy saying Indonesia got elevated to Category 1, meaning local carriers including Garuda can fly to the U.S. and enter code-share agreements with U.S. airlines. In 2007, the FAA had cut the rating to Category 2, citing serious concerns about the local civil-aviation regulator’s safety oversight and operational control systems.

“This is an achievement we’ve been waiting for since 2007,” Suprasetyo, Director General for Air Transport at the ministry, told reporters in Jakarta. “There are several airlines that are ready to fly to the U.S.”

The higher rating holds better prospects for Garuda, which returned to profit last year, as it is allowed to add lucrative routes to North America. The upgrade came after the European Union scrapped a flight ban on Garuda in 2009 and in June this year abolished restrictions on three other Indonesian operators -- PT Lion Mentari Airlines, Batik Air and Garuda’s low-cost unit Citilink. Among the four, only Garuda has scheduled flights to Europe.

Easing Congestion

Among efforts to improve its rating, Indonesia opened a new terminal at its main airport in Jakarta this month to ease congestion and has also added structures and equipment to bolster airport safety.

“The efforts of the DGCA over the past year have demonstrated the commitment of the DGCA, the Ministry of Transportation and the Government of Indonesia to establishing a system of effective aviation safety oversight,” the U.S. embassy said in its letter, referring to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the local regulator.

A Category 1 rating means a nation’s civil aviation authority complies with international standards. Category 2 means a country either lacks laws or regulations necessary to oversee its airlines in line with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority is deficient in one or more areas.

Several aviation accidents in recent years have left Indonesia with a fatal air-crash rate of more than three times the global average even amid the government’s efforts to improve transportation safety.

A shortage of skilled pilots, ground crew and air-traffic controllers as well as outdated equipment and planes have all contributed to the deadly accidents, including an AirAsia Bhd. Flight 8501 crash in December 2014 that killed all 162 people on board.

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