Zubaidah Nazeer – Straits Times
Jakarta. All across the world, countries are expanding their airports and adding runways to reach out to airlines and travelers. The Straits Times takes a look at the worldwide bid to capitalize on the growing air travel sector.
A shop in the transit area of Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport still calls itself the Cassette Shop.
Audio cassettes were a must-have for the Sony Walkman generation in the 1980s, long before CDs and iPods came along.
The outdated sign is a telling reflection of the state of Jakarta’s main airport, which has not had a major upgrade since it was built in 1985. Its infrastructure is creaking under the strain of serving more than double the annual passenger volume it was built for nearly 30 years ago.
Indonesian airport operator Angkasa Pura II is pumping in 11.7 trillion rupiah (US $ 1.24 billion) for a massive makeover that will expand the airport’s capacity and make it a world-class facility.
“The issue of over-capacity at the airport is very serious and this is the main concern leading us to revamp,” Hari Cahyono, corporate secretary of Angkasa Pura II, told The Straits Times.
By the time the first phase is completed in 2014, the airport will be able to handle 62 million passengers a year, up from the original 22 million.
Also in the works: a wider access road and a mall-style building with shops, restaurants and a car park for 20,000 cars that will link the two terminals. A tram service will run between the terminals. Apron capacity will increase from 125 aircraft now to 174, and cargo-handling capacity will be tripled.
Coming up too are a five-star hotel at the airport and a rail link to Jakarta so that travelers can avoid the severe road congestion, Hari said.
The facelift comes after Soekarno-Hatta, located 20 km west of Jakarta, saw a 19.3 percent jump in passenger traffic last year. It was ranked the world’s 12th busiest airport by passenger traffic by Airports Council International. Singapore’s Changi Airport was placed 18th.
Observers say this is the result of the liberalization of the Indonesian aviation industry, strong economic growth that has seen rising affluence among Indonesians and increased foreign investor interest in the country.
Soekarno-Hatta handled 51 million passengers last year, booking the fastest growth among Asean airports, but the strain on its infrastructure has resulted in a number of blackouts and telecommunication disruptions over the years, causing major flight delays. Baggage retrievals for passengers on big planes sometimes take as long as an hour.
Soekarno-Hatta’s deputy general manager Mulya Abdi hopes that by 2015, a fourth terminal and a third runway will be ready. This will raise total capacity to about 75 million passengers a year, he told The Straits Times.
Said Hari of the upgrade, “As the main entry point to the country, the Jakarta airport is a representation of Indonesia. We should welcome visitors with a good image.”
Indonesia has bigger plans for the future. Officials say that Soekarno-Hatta will remain a domestic hub as a new regional airport will be coming up in Medan, North Sumatra. When completed, it will be to Indonesia what Suvarnabhumi is to Bangkok or Changi is to Singapore.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times