Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Budget airlines get ready to raise ticket prices

Travelers will have to pay more for their flights on the country’s busy routes as the government’s decision to change the airline ticket price formula will allow budget airline operators to raise their prices.

Muhammad Alwi, the director for air transportation at the Transportation Ministry, said Wednesday that the change in the formula was important to ensure that airlines would have enough funds to maintain their safety on par with international standards.

At present, budget airfares, especially on busy routes, are quite low, and are often far below market value as the airlines have to compete in a tight market.

“With this new regulation, airlines can no longer offer unrealistically low fares, like offering an airfare of only Rp 10,000 [78 US cents] for the Jakarta-Medan route,” he said. He also explained that several airline operators often charged passengers only Rp 100,000 for the Surabaya-Jakarta route, which was quite unrealistic compared with the airlines’ operating costs.

“There should no longer be airfares of just Rp 100,000 for Surabaya-Jakarta, which is well below the price of a train ticket,” he told reporters.

Under Transportation Ministry Regulation No. 91/2014 on a price ceiling mechanism, which was signed by Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan on Dec. 30, 2014, the price floor for scheduled low-cost airlines is set at 40 percent of the maximum price, rising from 30 percent previously.

As stated in the ministerial regulation, the maximum price for a Jakarta-Denpasar ticket is Rp 1.54 million (US$121.5), the maximum price for a Jakarta-Medan ticket is set at Rp 2 million, and the maximum price for a Jakarta-Makassar ticket is set at Rp 1.93 million. This means that the lowest fare should be at least 40 percent of the fare ceiling.

The new regulation is part of several measures taken by the Transportation Ministry to improve safety following the crash of AirAsia flight QZ8501 en route to Singapore from Surabaya on Dec. 28, 2014.

The measures also include an overall review of the business and technical operations of all airlines operating in the country and the suspension of flights and dismissal of officials under the ministry.

A few days after the crash, the ministry suspended all AirAsia flights between Surabaya and Singapore after an investigation found that AirAsia’s ill-fated flight QZ8501 took off without a permit.

Commenting on the fare policy, low-cost carrier Citilink acting president director Albert Burhan said that the airline would support the government’s decision to increase the minimum price, saying that the airline normally set its ticket price higher than 40 percent of the maximum price regulated by the ministry.

“We will just follow the regulation issued by the ministry since our business strategy is not offering the lowest price possible, but offering good service quality, such as maintaining our on-time performance,” Albert told The Jakarta Post.

Lion Group’s corporate secretary, Ade Simanjuntak, separately said the airline had not yet adjusted its fares.

“One thing is for sure, the regulation will have to be followed by all airlines operating in the country, not only Lion Air, therefore we will just comply with the regulation,” Ade said.

Chairman of Indonesia National Carrier Association’s (INACA) non-scheduled airline division, Bayu Sutanto, said that the regulation was expected to help the country’s aviation industry improve its safety standards.

The change in the fare formula was quite realistic given the high operating costs borne by the country’s airlines. Fuel costs alone accounted for 45 percent of total operating costs, So it was unrealistic to sell tickets below 40 percent of the fare ceiling, he added.

Indonesia has been placed in a group of category 2 countries based on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ratings, signaling that the country lacks regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards.

“The government decided to increase the price floor based on an allegation of misconduct in the country’s aviation safety standards,” Bayu said. “This is one of the mechanisms conducted by the ministry in an attempt to increase our FAA rating.”

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mercure Hotel now available in Setiabudi, Bandung

Bandung is definitely one of the go-to cities in West Java, and like every other popular city, the demand for accommodation is high on weekends and holidays. So it’s no surprise Accor has opened another hotel to accommodate guests in Bandung.

Even though Mercure Bandung Setiabudi has been open since October, the official launch was not held until Monday. This grand opening means that most of the facilities and rooms are now available to be booked and enjoyed.

Situated on Jl. Setiabudi, hence the name, the hotel is fairly close to popular tourist destinations. It is only around 30 minutes from Husein Sastranegara Airport and Tangkuban Perahu, one of the most famous tourist attractions near Bandung.

Joining Novotel as another mid-scale option under Accor management, Mercure Bandung Setiabudi has 205 modern-designed rooms, all decorated with a touch of West Javan tradition.

Mercure hotels are non-standardized, meaning that each Mercure hotel has its own characteristic in style that usually represents the local tradition. As with Mercure Bandung Setiabudi, the touch of West Javan tradition can be experienced from the moment you enter the lobby.

As for facilities and amenities, this four-star hotel leaves no room for complaints. Two restaurants serving international and oriental cuisine are ready to pamper your taste buds. A bar is also available in the lobby and another is being prepared to open next to the pool.

While perfect for families or couples to spend their holiday in Bandung, Mercure Bandung Setiabudi also has a grand ballroom with a capacity of up to 1,700 people besides six standard meeting rooms, all equipped with modern meeting facilities.

The lovely pool located in the center of the hotel is also unique. For example, the water is treated to a warm temperature so guests can be comfortable enough to swim even when the daytime temperature drops to 22 degrees Celcius.

Lastly, the view from the room is spectacular. From the window or the balcony, you can see a beautiful view of the city at night to the south or the divine view of mountains to the north. And if you get a poolside-view room, the sight from above is romantic at night.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Why Bandung's Trademark Market is the biggest yet

The rain has started to pour frequently and heavily in Bandung these days. On Thursday, despite such weather, Trademark Market VI opened for the first day of its four-day event at Miniapolis, Paris Van Java Mall at Jl. Sukajadi, attracting crowds not only from Jakarta but also from neighboring countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.

The sixth event of the Trademark Market, one of Bandung's most-awaited fashion markets, promised to bring out the biggest event it has done so far to live up to this year's theme: "The biggest yet to come." This translated into 120 of Bandung's tightly selected fashion brands and 10 food and beverage brands, all set to lure shoppers and visitors.

"This year, we set up the Trademark Market in a much larger space to anticipate the crowd," said Saira Nisar, the Trademark Market's founder and director, who added that the event occupied an estimated 2,000 square meters and successfully attracted 70,590 visitors in the four days it was open.

Despite its highly selective tenants, according to Saira, most of the products sold at the Trademark Market were less pricey compared to those offered at similar events in town.

This fact was also observed by Carline Darjanto, who came all the way from Jakarta and had marked it down in her calendar to purposely attend the event, bringing along some of her team to feel and observe the event's ambiance: what interested the crowd and such things. Carline is a founder and creative director of her own established and popular fashion brand, Cotton Ink.

"I also noticed that the Trademark Market offers quite large collections and brands of men's wear and apparel compare to similar events in Jakarta," said Carline, adding that most of the brands also offered street-casual wear at affordable prices suitable for teenagers and youngsters.

One of the tenants' staffers, Rina, commented that the young crowd could come to at least two out of four days if not all.

"On the first day, they would probably just do window shopping, eat and hang out while enjoying the music, but I found that they always come back the next day to shop," Rina said.

At the Trademark Market, besides hunting for fashionable items that suits their styles, visitors could also savor delicious culinary treats at the food and beverage booths and enjoy musical performances by DJs and bands such as Marco & Marce, Barsena and Dira Bongs, among others.

The Trademark Market, in the end, showed the talents and creativity of Bandung's young fashion and culinary entrepreneurs and their role in making the city's creative economy trendy and thriving.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

3 must-visit new parks in Bandung

When in Bandung, one way to get to know its citizens and the city is through its parks, which offer many fun yet free activities.

Bandung city government has kept its promise to build more parks around the city. Offered with various thematic designs and concepts, they have become the locals' favorite spots to unwind in public spaces.

Fitness Park

Yearning to keep fit while traveling in Bandung? Then go visit this very interesting park on the corner of Jl. Imam Bonjol.

Last October, Bandung mayor Ridwan Kamil inaugurated the Taman Fitness park and, as the name suggests, it is designed for those who wish to keep fit and in shape.

At the park, you will find a football field surrounded by a pathway designed with stones providing a surface imitating reflexology therapy and, on one side of the park, sport equipments similar to that found in a gym.

That afternoon, a female and male team seemed to be practicing American football.

I also met two local residents, Yanti and Ivon, who came to the park as first-timers.

Yanti, who walked around on the stone pathway, said that she found the park quite pleasant.

Ivon, who lives nearby, added that she wanted to lose some weight and had high hopes that the routine she'd been meaning to do at the park would help her reach that particular goal.

The library park at Taman Tongkeng
This latest edition to Bandung's unique parks opened just last month in the city's residential area of Jl. Tongkeng.

Designed and built in dominant red and themed around the library, it offers a library corner, small playground in one corner -- equipped with a sand pit and interactive play area -- and a futsal field nearby.

According to Tini, the park's library staffer from the GSSI foundation that runs the library, they have around 400 books available, mostly children’s books.

Open every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., the library has an affordable membership fee of Rp 20,000 (US$1.56) and monthly events are set to be held in 2015 to enliven the park.

If you happen to come by in the late afternoon like I did, chances are you'll see a batch of mothers or caregivers wandering about with small plates or bowls in their hands feeding their toddlers, who typically still have wet hair fresh from their afternoon shower, a sight that somehow shows a hearty warm scene of typical daily life in the country.

Skate Park

Located under Pasopati bridge near Balubur Town Square on Jl. Taman Sari, the park neighbors Taman Film and Taman Jomblo; the latter is uniquely designed for singles to mingle.

When I came in the afternoon, some teenagers were seen practicing their skating skills by gliding along and trying to jump.

According to a young skater I met, Iwan, the skate park is open for everyone who wants to play or learn how to skate. In fact, he said, usually at around 3 p.m., a batch of young children from the area would gather, watching and learning how to skate.

"Usually the older boys, or anyone who's here, are more than willing to teach. Just come and join in," Iwan said.

Whether you skate or not, or merely interact with the locals, watch the skaters practicing and take photos, the park is indeed a fun place to visit.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Airlines ready to include airport tax in ticket prices

Domestic airlines say they are ready to include the passenger service charge (PSC), also known as airport tax, in their ticket prices, following a call by Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan.

The minister recently called on all airlines to include this tax in their tickets, saying the tax and ticket must be in “one package”.

According to Garuda Indonesia sales and marketing director Erik Meijer, the national flag carrier was ready to comply with the call, as long as the practice was implemented in accordance with the standards set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), of which it is a member.

“We are ready. The system is there because we already implemented it for two years,” he said on Thursday.

Garuda began embedding the tax in its ticket in 2012, but decided to drop the procedure in September 2014 as it suffered losses from uncollected payments.

It attributed the losses, which stood at around Rp 2 billion (US$164,217) per month, to differences between the information technology (IT) system that it used and that used by domestic airport operators, represented by Angkasa Pura I (AP I) and Angkasa Pura II (AP II).

Meijer said the airline had received numerous requests from its passengers asking for the tax be included in the ticket price again as it was more practical.

At present, the tax to be paid differs from one airport to another. It stands at Rp 40,000 per person for domestic flights from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Tangerang and Rp 75,000 per person at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar.

Meanwhile, the tax is set at Rp 35,000 per person at Kualanamu International Airport in Deli Serdang and at Rp 75,000 per person at Juanda International Airport in Surabaya.

Passengers must make the payment in cash at a separate counter at the airports.

Meanwhile, Sriwijaya Air corporate communication senior manager Agus Soedjono said that the private airline was ready to implement the practice, provided that a clear system and regulations were first put in place.

“We are waiting for the system to be developed by all Angkasa Pura companies because there are several issues that must be made clear,” he said.

Among the issues, he added, were those related to the tax implementation on multi-stop flights and payment collection between airlines and operators.

Audrey Progastama, AirAsia Indonesia spokesperson, said that the company would also support the tax integration policy as long as it was executed consistently across all airlines.

AirAsia Indonesia currently includes an “airport charges and fees” component in its ticket price for several routes, information on its website shows.

Separately, AP II corporate secretary Daryanto said that discussions were ongoing between the company and its fellow airport operator.

“We are still in the early stage of the system development. We have so far held informal talks with AP I and have not met with the airlines,” he said over the telephone.

AP II currently manages 13 airports, including Soekarno-Hatta and Kualanamu. AP I also oversees 13 airports, such as Juanda, Ngurah Rai and Sam Ratulangi International Airport in Manado.

Daryanto said that the company hoped all processes would be complete by December.