Indonesian budget carrier has spotty safety record

JAKARTA • Lion Air is Indo-nesia's largest low-cost carrier, dominating more than 40 per cent of the market.

It has been on an aggressive expansion plan in recent years, including put-ting in an order for 50 of the Boeing 737 Max single-aisle aircraft.

In total, the airline has almost 300 passenger aircraft, more than half of which are from American aviation giant Boeing.

Last year, it served nearly 51 million passengers, six million more than in 2016.

But Lion Air also has a history of accidents dating back to 2002, less than three years after it was founded by Indonesian brothers Rusdi and Kusnan Kirana.

In January 2002, a Boeing 737-200 it operated crashed on take-off at Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport in Pekanbaru, in Riau province.

The passengers on that flight survived, but a crash in Solo two years later in 2004 claimed the lives of 25 people, in what was the airline's only incident with fatalities until yesterday's off the coast of West Java.

There were also other accidents involving its aircraft, including an incident in August 2013 when a Lion Air Boeing 737-800 from Makassar to Gorontalo with 117 passengers and crew on board hit a cow while landing at Jalaluddin Airport, and veered off the runway.

That same year, one of its planes crash-landed on the water after it overran the runway at the Ngurah Rai airport in Denpasar, Bali.

There was a similar incident in February 2016, when Lion Air Flight 263 from Balikpapan to Surabaya overran the runway at the Juanda International Airport.

Miraculously, none of the passengers on that flight suffered any injuries. But an investigation by Indonesia's national transportation safety committee KNKT found that failures on the part of the flight crew had led to improper landing procedures.

The committee recommended that Lion Air improve its pilot training.

However, Lion Air was removed from the European Union's air-safety blacklist in June that same year.

Francis Chan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2018, with the headline 'Indonesian budget carrier has spotty safety record'. Subscribe