Dylan Amirio, Dili, Timor Leste – Low-cost carrier Citilink Indonesia has opened a new route connecting Denpasar in Bali to Dili in Timor Leste in cooperation with Air Timor as part of efforts to boost visitors to the neighboring country.
The scheduled charter flight started operations on Monday. The company will fly the route three times a week using Boeing 737-500 jets.
Citilink's vice president of corporate communications Benny Butarbutar said that the company expected Timor Leste to benefit from the new route and that the country could further develop its economy, especially the tourist sector, with international visitors continuing their holidays from the resort island of Bali to Dili.
"One of the reasons we chose to open a route to Timor Leste is to try and tap into unrealized markets," Benny told The Jakarta Post.
Timor Leste became an independent nation in 2002 following an independence referendum in 1999.
Benny added that to begin with, Citilink would opt for scheduled charter flights instead of a regularly scheduled flights.
According to Benny, Timor Leste may be able to take advantage of the new route to develop its tourist industry by hosting conventions and events such as marathons, festivals and other exhibitions.
In addition to the Denpasar-Dili route, Citilink is looking into opening other hubs connecting Denpasar to regional routes such as Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Perth by 2016.
The low-cost carrier, a subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, has control of 13 percent of the total market share of national flights and aims to increase that figure to 30 percent over the next three to four years.
As reported earlier, Citilink now operates 35 Airbus A-320 aircraft to serve 190 domestic and regional flights daily. In 2014, Citilink carried 7.6 million passengers. In 2015, Citilink aims to carry 11.2 million passengers, a one-and-a-half-fold increase from the previous year.
Meanwhile, Air Timor's deputy chief operating officer Andisuari Dewi said that the market for Bali was large in Dili.
Andisuari said that since the route opened on Monday, flights going from Dili to Denpasar had been full, while the route from Denpasar to Dili had an average load factor of 50 percent.
Andisuari attributed the low load factor to Dili to Timor Leste's underdeveloped tourist infrastructure as well as its lack of marketing. Most of the flights coming out of Dili were made up of government officials, businesspeople or consultants.
"If we are talking tourism, tourism in Timor is still very low. Tourism only made up around 5 percent of our load factor this past year. The rest is mostly business and government," Dewi told the Post.
Despite the lower numbers, Timorese visitors to Bali for leisure purposes remained active, with Air Timor noting that Bali was an affordable destination for Timorese vacationers.
Air Timor is currently the only airline operating from Timor Leste and serves only two destinations: Denpasar-Dili and Dili-Singapore, the latter of which is also a partnership with Singapore Air subsidiary Silk Air.
The airline owns no planes but is leasing an Airbus A319 for its Singapore route alongside the Boeing 737-500 operated by Citilink.
In addition to Citilink, Sriwijaya Air is the only other Indonesian airline that has scheduled flights to Timor Leste.