Ruth Dea Juwita, Jakarta – Indonesia's aviation industry continues to recover as passenger figures have reached 80 percent of the pre-pandemic level, according to the Indonesian National Air Carriers Association (INACA).
"Today, the airlines are trying to restore their transportation capacity based on their respective capabilities and the resilience level of each airline," INACA chairman Denon Prawiraatmadja was quoted as saying by Tempo.
The association's comments show that airlines are confident about the demand trajectory after air travel picked up rapidly, as reflected in increasing passenger numbers, expanding fleets and the opening of new flight routes.
Nevertheless, Denon argued that the pandemic had taken a greater toll on the aviation industry than on many other industries.
"Other industries can start anew, but the airline industry cannot just get past it. [Airlines] still have to deal with the burden of expenses that cannot be simply wiped out," Denon told Tempo in Jakarta on Wednesday.
Denon named several issues that needed to be resolved to support the recovery, including the completion of business-to-business (B2B) deals by airlines and aviation lessors.
Safety requires extra attention in the course of the aviation market recovery, according to INACA, as many aircraft stood idle for a long time.
Denon asked all airlines to perform the required inspections of their aircraft before returning them to operation.
"They must go through MRO [maintenance, repair and overhaul] before they can start flying again," said Denon. MRO in aviation refers to all activities aimed at ensuring that an aircraft is ready to fly at all times.
"I hope all airlines will follow the regulations," he added.
The robust recovery of the aviation industry is also supported by Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data showing that the number of domestic flight passengers amounted to 52.56 million people in 2022, 68.5 percent of the 2019 pre-pandemic level of 76.68 million.
Passenger numbers at the five main airports of Indonesia increased particularly fast in 2022.
Tempo cited BPS data revealing that the figure had reached 36.02 million passengers, far exceeding the 19.52 million passengers served in 2020 and 15.99 million in 2021.
The five airports are Kualanamu International Airport in North Sumatra, Jakarta-serving Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Banten, Juanda International Airport in East Java, Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali and Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport in South Sulawesi.
However, the overall passenger figures have yet to return to their pre-pandemic levels.
As reported previously, INACA expects the domestic industry to fully recover in the third quarter of next year, which is faster than an earlier forecast for this to happen in 2025 and faster than the expected global market recovery projected to be achieved in 2026.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has predicted that Indonesia will become the world's fourth-largest air travel market by 2030, jumping up from 10th place in 2019.
IATA also projects "that 390 million passengers will fly from and within Indonesia by 2037," according to a report from the United States International Trade Administration.
Notwithstanding the massive decline in passenger transportation brought about by the pandemic, the cargo transportation industry remained relatively stable, according to the report.