Indonesian airline studies introduction of smaller aircraft on certain European routes

Garuda is considering adding Airbus A340s or Boeing 777s to replace some Boeing 747s, saying it is difficult to justify deploying the larger aircraft on key European routes.

The Indonesian flag carrier's executive vice president commercial Bachrul Hakim says the carrier will consider adding long-range aircraft in the next two years.

"If we can get smaller aircraft, longer-range, with more frequencies, it will be ideal," says Hakim.

Garuda suffered badly during the Asian economic downturn that began in mid-1997, and dropped services to many points, including those in Europe. Garuda is still in financial difficulty, and an early decision on new widebody aircraft is unlikely.

"We are studying them, but we have not come to a final decision because our financial situation does not allow us to take a quick decision," says Hakim.

Hakim says Garuda will only return to other European cities when it can serve current destinations - Amsterdam, Frankfurt and London - daily. With 747s, that is a long way off, however.

"What we think will be ideal for us is if we can have 300-seaters that can fly non-stop both from Jakarta to Los Angeles and from Denpasar [Bali] to London," he says.

"In the near future if the situation changes comprehensively, that is to say our penetration of the market is successful and the market grows, maybe the 747 will become suitable. But with the current situation, we think it is too big, and it does not allow us to be flexible in responding to the market."

The airline is meanwhile planning to retire its five McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30s as part of its rehabilitation plan that saved it from bankruptcy during the Asian economic downturn.

Garuda's fleet also includes three 747-400s, four 747-200s, six Airbus A330-300s, 14 Boeing 737-400s, seven 737-300s and five 737-500s.

Source: Flight International