Construction to expand Bali airport expected to start this month, operator says

Increasing air traffic and passenger capacity in Bali has been on the government's agenda for a while. PHOTO: REUTERS

(THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - In a race to prepare for October's IMF-World Bank Annual Meeting, state airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) I is set to begin construction on the expansion of Bali's I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport.

The high-level meeting will see Bali welcome 17,000 delegates from 189 countries. Guests will include heads of state, central bank governors and ministers, among others.

AP I president director Faik Fahmi said the company was set to disburse Rp 2.1 trillion (S$200 million) for the expansion of the airport.

"According to the time frame, by April 26 we should begin construction," Faik said recently.

In February, an Antara news report said the expansion will include the aprons in the western and eastern sides of the airport to allow for more parking areas for large jets.

The VIP I and VIP II terminals in the western side of the airport would be moved to the eastern side near the international cargo terminal.

The work will expand the existing airport by 47.9 hectares, mainly through reclamation from the sea and adjoining beach area.

The additional parking lots were viewed as urgent because the airport could not yet meet the demand from around 70 domestic and international airlines serving flights to Bali, the Antara report said.

AP I noted that last year, I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport welcomed 21 million passengers, nearing its capacity of 25 million passengers.

However, in the long run, Israwadi said there was a possibility that the number of passengers could grow beyond 37 million passengers and would thus require additional infrastructure, such as a second runway.

There have also been talks between the government and private companies on building a new airport in the north of Bali. Currently, several potential investors are in the process of conducting feasibility studies.

Private airport operator Bandara Internasional Bali Utara (BIBU) is one potential investor, and has set its sights on building a US$2 billion (S$2.62 billion) airport in northern Bali.

The development is slated to be aided by private investment, mostly from Middle East investors.

The government is still reviewing the plan to build the new airport.

The new airport is intended to boost air traffic with an additional capacity of 32 million passengers to support the already congested main tourism gateway of I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport. It will also even out tourism growth between southern and northern Bali.

Due to administrative issues, however, the development of the North Bali airport has not seen significant progress to date, including the absence of a location permit from the Transportation Ministry.

Although Faik said that AP I was set to break ground on the expansion of the existing airport soon, Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan stated that the government preferred the development of a new airport.

"Regarding [I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport] runway, we have decided not to add the two lanes, because the addition will cost Rp 27 trillion for an additional 10 million [PASSENGERS], it's not worth it. We would prefer to build the northern Bali [AIRPORT]," he said recently.

Increasing air traffic and passenger capacity in Bali has been on the government's agenda for a while. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in its 20-year air passenger forecast, Indonesia is expected to become the fourth fastest growing aviation market.

By 2036, the archipelago is expected to see it air traffic rise to 355 million passengers.

Thus far, the number of air passengers in the country has increased by double digits with air transportation still the fastest way to get around.

Transportation Ministry data shows that the number of passengers on in-bound international flights to Indonesia last year reached 12.4 million passengers, 20.4 per cent higher than the figure in 2016 of 10.3 million passengers.

However, the growth in international flight traffic is higher than domestic passenger traffic, which only increased by 8.4 per cent in 2017 from 89.3 million passengers in 2016.

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