Indonesia beefing up security at all airports

Indonesian soldiers securing the Soekarno-Hatta airport on Jan 14 after bomb attacks by militants in central Jakarta.
Indonesian soldiers securing the Soekarno-Hatta airport on Jan 14 after bomb attacks by militants in central Jakarta. PHOTO: AFP

JAKARTA • Indonesia is upgrading security at its 192 airports to guard against possible terrorist attacks, weeks after a deadly bombing and shooting assault by Islamic militants in downtown Jakarta.

The measures will include fences that comply with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, "first-class" baggage X-ray machines and retraining for security officers, Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said in an interview this week. "We shouldn't wait for indications and then act. We have to prepare better. We will increase the standards of airport security all over the country."

Aviation security has come under renewed scrutiny since an apparent bomb downed a Russian passenger plane last October, killing 224 people, and a suicide bomber blew a hole in the side of a plane flying from Somalia earlier this month, killing himself.

Last month, Islamic militants carried out a gun-and-bomb attack in Indonesia's capital, in a reminder of the threat posed by extremism in the world's most populous Muslim nation.

 

Mr Jonan defended the slew of safety regulations he has issued or enforced since taking office in October 2014. The rules include immediate route suspension for airlines involved in safety incidents, as well as a floor on ticket prices.

"I know the airlines might not be happy with this, but I'm not happy with them either. I come here not to serve the airlines but (to ensure) the safety of the public. The challenge is how to discipline operators," Mr Jonan said.

Driven by a decade of rapid economic growth, Indonesia's annual air passenger numbers have more than trebled since 2006 to nearly 95 million last year, according to the World Bank. That has strained the country's aviation infrastructure and regulatory capabilities.

Indonesia has stepped up efforts to improve its record in the past few years, but challenges remain. It has a shortage of skilled pilots, ground crew and air traffic controllers. Equipment and planes often are outdated or do not work.

Many of its airports are below par or have runways that are too short and the terrain of 17,000 islands makes for treacherous flying conditions. Much of the network has suffered from underinvestment and is operating over capacity.

The country has had 13 fatal plane crashes in the past decade, almost level with the previous 10 years, according to data from Flightglobal.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia beefing up security at all airports'. Print Edition | Subscribe