Indonesian authorities are hopeful for a return of flights to Mainland China, even as current frequencies remain well below pre-pandemic levels. 

Director-general of civil aviation Maria Kristi Endah Murni says the “accessibility of flights” between the two countries will “further encourage” the aviation sector’s recovery. She points out flights to China from cities other than capital Jakarta among the opportunities for airlines. 

Xiamen Airlines DPS airport_DGCA Indonesia

Source: Directorate-General of Civil Aviation Indonesia

The first Xiamen Airlines flight arrives at Bali from Xiamen.

Kristi’s comments come as Bali’s Ngurah Rai international airport welcomed an inaugural flight from Xiamen Airlines, connecting Xiamen to the tourist hotspot. 

The Chinese operator will fly its Boeing 737-800s daily on the route, and is currently the only carrier to fly between Xiamen and Bali. 

Chinese carriers have steadily ramped up flying to Indonesia, while their Indonesian counterparts lag behind in resuming flights to China. 

According to Cirium schedules data, Xiamen Airlines holds the largest share of frequencies between the two countries: the SkyTeam carrier also has daily flights from Xiamen to Jakarta, as well as thrice weekly flights from Fuzhou to Jakarta, operated by a mix of 787s and 737s. 

China Southern Airlines is the second largest by frequency, and has five weekly flights between Guangzhou and Jakarta operated by Airbus A330s and A321s. It also has thrice weekly flights between Shenzhen and Jakarta, as well as once-a-week flights between Manado and Guangzhou. 

Only three Indonesian carriers have scheduled operations to China: Sriwijaya Air, which flies to Wenzhou, Hangzhou and Fuzhou, flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, which only flies once a week to Guangzhou from Jakarta, as well as low-cost operator Lion Air, which recently launched once-weekly flights to Shenzhen from Bali. 

Lion Air was a significant player in the Indonesia-China market pre-pandemic, with its network including a number of secondary Chinese cities like Taiyuan in Shaanxi province, Sanya on Hainan island, as well as Nanchang. 

Sister unit Batik Air, as well as Garuda low-cost unit Citilink also had flights between the two countries in 2019, but have yet to resume. 

Pre-pandemic, there were close to 2 million Chinese visitors, and Indonesia currently forecasts up to 255,000 Chinese tourists to visit the country this year. 

Still, Indonesian operators have signalled their intent to return to Mainland China. Lion Air, for instance, says it plans to restore some of its pre-pandemic Chinese network, flying to cities like Shanghai, Nanchang, Guangzhou and Nanjing. 

Indonesia AirAsia is also expected to make its debut in the Chinese market, with flights to Shenzhen set to launch soon.