Saudi clears Garuda after inspection
Jakarta, August 3, 2007
Saudi Arabia's civil aviation body has withdrawn plans to ban Garuda Indonesia from its airspace over safety concerns, officials said.
The European Union recently barred 51 airlines certified in Indonesia from European airspace, citing safety worries.
Last month, Indonesia's transport ministry received a letter from Saudi Arabia's General Authority on Civil Aviation (GACA), warning of a possible ban since the body normally followed EU aviation policy.
'A team from GACA flew to Jakarta this week to verify Garuda's safety and maintenance operations,' Garuda spokesman Pujobroto said by telephone.
'After two days of inspecting the company's facilities and operations, they declared that Garuda had satisfactorily met all the standards.'
Bambang Ervan, an Indonesian transport ministry official, said as a result Saudi Arabia has dropped its plans to ban Garuda, the only Indonesian airline to fly to Saudi Arabia.
'GACA will also send us a report with recommendations to help improve safety conditions,' Ervan said.
Every year nearly half a million Indonesians travel to Saudi Arabia, mostly to perform the Muslim haj pilgrimage.
Indonesia's national carrier Garuda currently flies eight times a week to Jeddah and Riyadh, with plans for extra flights in the pipeline for the upcoming haj season.
The Southeast Asian nation's air safety record has come under scrutiny after two deadly accidents this year.
In March, a Garuda Indonesia plane with 140 people on board overshot the runway in Yogyakarta in Java and burst into flames, killing 21 people.
Two months earlier a plane belonging to budget carrier Adam Air crashed into the sea off Sulawesi island. All 102 on board are presumed dead.
In April, the US advised its citizens to avoid flying Indonesian airlines, saying there were serious concerns about their safety standards.
Last month, Indonesia signed an agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to improve air safety, committing itself to implement safety management based on international standards.
Air travel in Indonesia has blossomed since the liberalisation of the sector in 1999, but the rapid growth has raised questions over whether safety has been compromised. Reuters