16 September 2019 (closed)
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The mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on Saturday 7 March 2014 reminds us that flying does not go without risks. Although it is popularly said that flying in an airplane is safer than driving in a car - and despite the fact that Malaysia Airlines is a world-class airline - it is worth taking a closer look at the current state of aviation in the Asia Pacific, Indonesia in particular, as air traffic in the Asia Pacific has been booming (and budget airlines mushroomed) in recent years due to the expanding middle class.
The fate of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 remains unknown. The airplane, carrying 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Kumpur to Beijing, lost contact with air traffic controllers in the early hours of Saturday when it was flying above the South China Sea. It made no distress call, implying that there may have been a sudden and violent incident. Search and rescue teams are currently busy trying to find clues in the seas between Malaysia and Vietnam (South China Sea and Gulf of Thailand). Even, the Malacca Strait (located between Malaysia and Sumatra) has been added to the search area as the airplane might have attempted to turn back. There have been reports that debris as well as an oil slick was found about 80 kilometers to the south-east of Tho Chu Island. However, there has been no confirmation that these findings are connected to Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.
Adding to the mystery is that two passengers on the flight used stolen passports. This triggered speculation that there may have been a terrorist attack. However, there are no (further) indications of terrorism and it is also known that air passengers using false identification papers in Asia is not unusual (although it is not too common too).
The aviation industry in the Asia-Pacific region has shown strong growth in recent years and is known as one of the world's fastest growing regions in terms of air travel. Over the next twenty years, average annual growth of seven percent of air traffic is expected. Indonesia, one of the largest economies of the Asia-Pacific, contains a rapidly expanding middle class which is increasingly using airplanes for domestic or international transport. Being the world's largest archipelago (containing thousands of islands), air travel is the most efficient option for fast travel across the country. Moreover, Indonesia's recent investment grade status makes it cheaper for domestic companies to finance expansion.
However, there is a downside to the rapidly expanding aviation industry in Indonesia as fierce competition, particularly in the low-budget carrier segment, caused profit margins to plunge. Financial troubles have already taken a few victims in recent years: Mandala Airlines (a takeover by private equity firm Saratoga Capital and Tiger Airways eventually saved the company), Pacific Royale, and Batavia Air. Merpati Nusantara Airlines is currently close to bankruptcy. In order to maintain healthy financial figures, low-cost airlines can save funds by cutting back on expenses for maintenance. Such safety concerns are the reason that most Indonesian airlines are blacklisted from flying in airspace of the European Union (with the notable exceptions of Garuda Indonesia, Airfast Indonesia, Mandala Airlines, ekspres Transportasi Antarbenua and Indonesia AirAsia). Lastly, as there has been a sharp increase in number of flights in recent years, there has also been a lack of properly trained pilots. This increases chances of pilot error.
Based on data from airlineratings.com, three Indonesian airlines are among the top ten ranking of the world's unsafest airlines. These are Lion Mentari Air (Lion Air), Merpati Airlines and Susi Air. It is interesting that Lion Air is assessed as unsafe as it is the largest privately-held airline in Indonesia. With around 40 percent, this low-cost carrier is Indonesia's biggest airline in terms of domestic market share, carrying about 25 million domestic air passengers per year and operating over 226 flights per day.
Airline Incidents in Indonesia 2004-2014:
|Airline||Type of Plane||Date||Number of
|Lion Air||MD-82||30 November 2004||26|
|Mandala Airlines||Boeing 737-200||5 September 2005||148|
|Adam Air||Boeing 737-400||1 January 2007||102|
|Adam Air||Boeing 737||21 February 2007||0|
|Garuda Indonesia||Boeing 737-400||7 March 2007||22|
|Sriwijaya Air||Boeing 737-200||27 August 2008||0|
|Mimika Air||Pilatus PC-6||17 April 2009||10|
|Merpati Nusantara Airlines||DHC-6||2 August 2009||16|
|Merpati Nusantara Airlines||Boeing 737-300||13 April 2010||0|
|Merpati Nusantara Airlines||Xian MA60||7 May 2011||25|
|Nusantara Buana Air||CASAC 212||29 September 2011||18|
|Sukhoi Superjet||SSJ-100||9 May 2012||45|
|Lion Air||Boeing 737-8GP||13 April 2013||0|
|Merpati Nusantara Airlines||Xian MA60||10 June 2013||0|
Top Ten World's Unsafest Airlines:
|1. Kam Air|
|3. Bluewing Airlines|
|4. Afghan Airways|
|5. Daallo Airlines|
|6. Eritrean Airlines|
|7. Lion Air|
|8. Merpati Airlines|
|9. Susi Air|
|10. Air Bagan|