Indonesia's Sriwijaya Air will expand its network and launch international services to China and Australia this year.

It is scheduled to start receiving new Boeing 737-800 aircraft this year, which will allow the airline to begin services to Guangzhou and Xiamen in China "where there is high demand for air travel" by the end of the year, said the airline's corporate planning and business development director, Jefferson Jauwena, in an interview with Flightglobal Pro in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The airline is also eyeing services to Perth and Darwin in Australia as part of its expansion, Jauwena added.

It has 10 -800s on order, dating from a Letter of Intent signed in October 2010, and expects to receive five of them in May 2012.

Sriwijaya also ordered 20 Embraer E-190s at the Paris Air Show in June 2011 with these scheduled for delivery after 2013.

At home, the airline plans to launch services to six destinations including Jayapura, Timika and Biak, while increasing the frequency on existing popular routes.

Jauwena said the carrier is optimistic about its growth this year and aims to carry at least 10 million passengers, up from 8.5 million last year.

"We will spend 90% of the time serving domestic routes first where we know there is demand. We believe taking on the big boys on international routes will be tough, so the aim is to strengthen our position as a domestic player and then use this to support our international expansion," Jauwena said.

The move is in line with Sriwijaya's plans to become a full-service carrier within the next three years.

Starting this year, it will reconfigure its cabins to include eight business-class seats. All the 737-800s it receives will be similarly configured.

Sriwijaya is also working with airports across the country to set up lounges for its passengers.

The aim is to capture the premium market where there is strong demand from business travellers and government officials.

"Garuda is the only one serving the market now. We believe there is a huge potential to capture this market," said Jauwena, adding that the airline will price its tickets lower than Garuda's, but higher than those of low-cost carriers.

"Indonesia still has huge potential in air travel. So many areas are not being served yet, the yield is very high," said Jauwena.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news