National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia is expanding its cargo routes by launching a weekly flight from South Sulawesi’s capital of Makassar to Singapore with hopes of boosting exports from the eastern part of Indonesia.
The Makassar-Singapore route opened on Monday and will fly once a week using an Airbus A330-300 with a maximum cargo capacity of 40 tons.
“Hopefully, our route development can improve Indonesia’s export commodity competitiveness, particularly from the eastern part of our country,” Garuda president director Irfan Setiaputra said in a statement on Monday. “The route provides direct access to Singapore as one of the biggest importers of our nation’s commodities.”
Makassar has a strategic location as a cargo flight hub for the eastern Indonesia region as the city has direct flight routes to other major cities in the region such as Ambon in Maluku, Kendari in Southeast Sulawesi, Manado in North Sulawesi and Sorong in West Papua.
South Sulawesi Governor Nurdin Abdullah expected the new route to boost the region’s natural resource exports, especially for the province’s leading fishery sector.
“South Sulawesi is known as one of the main exporters of marine commodities, particularly fishery products. We hope the direct Makassar-Singapore cargo route can boost the competitiveness of our fresh products, as well as that of other commodities,” he said.
Indonesian airlines, including Garuda, are pivoting to alternative strategies such as cargo flights to offset the impact of passenger decline amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Garuda saw an overall 61 percent drop year-on-year (yoy) in total numbers of passengers as of July this year, down to 3.6 million passengers, as the pandemic stymied the airline’s operations and hit its financial performance. Social restrictions and border closures implemented to curb the coronavirus spread have deterred people from flying.
The airline posted a US$712.73 million loss in the first half of this year after booking net profits of $24.11 million in the same period last year.
Irfan in early September told The Jakarta Post that the company was focusing on exploring new opportunities in the domestic market including freight exports, which had previously been overlooked by management.
“There are huge opportunities to work together with small businesses, fishermen and other industries to provide them with logistics services for exports. We hadn’t thought about that in recent years,” he said in an exclusive interview.
Prior to the Makassar-Singapore cargo route launching, Garuda also initiated a direct cargo flight between North Sulawesi’s capital of Manado and Narita in Japan on Sept. 23.
The Manado-Narita flight uses Airbus A330-200 aircraft with a maximum cargo capacity of 35 tons and flies once a week. Manado is also connected with direct flight routes to the city of Makassar, Ambon and Jakarta.