August 17, 2016. Mark that day in your calendar because it will most likely prove to be a momentous day in the Indonesian aviation industry – its the day that Indonesia regains their Category 1 rating from the United States, thereby opening the door for SkyTeam member Garuda Indonesia to re-start their long awaited US operations.
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.”
This is a big deal for Indonesia, and as such a huge deal for Garuda. The airline has been pining to start flights to California and even took delivery of a brand new Higher Gross Weight 777–300 fleet to be able to do so. While Garuda itself is regarded as a legitmately safe airline, the country’s regulatory body had massive issues to overcome and as such was rated as a CAT 2 country by the FAA for nearly 10 years.
This also means that Delta can now put its code on SkyTeam partner Garuda’s flights – yet another massive boon for both airlines.
It is not yet clear if and when GA will begin operations to the United States of what city will be their first destination, but Los Angeles is widely mooted as their first destination with the likes of New York and San Francisco to follow shortly thereafter.
This could even be the start of Delta service into Indonesia, with the carrier recently cutting Bangkok, Jakarta could be opened with the extra aircraft freed up by that route cancellation – if correctly timed it could feed into GA’s large South East Asian and domestic network.
Now who this is very bad news for are the likes of Cathay Pacific, China Airlines and even Singapore Airlines – they currently carry a bulk of US bound Indonesian passengers and will suffer for it as GA begins to be a player in the trans-Pacific market.
I don’t think it can be underestimated how much of a boost this is not only for Garuda but for Delta and SkyTeam alike, and indeed for consumers as they will now have an additional high quality option to the United States from the biggest country in South East Asia.