Sriwijaya Air aims to resume full operations with Garuda's help

Indonesia's private airline Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights within Indonesia and to China, Malaysia and Timor-Leste, reportedly saw its daily number of flights falling from 245 to around 120, after it had more than half of its fleet grounded ov
Indonesia's private airline Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights within Indonesia and to China, Malaysia and Timor-Leste, reportedly saw its daily number of flights falling from 245 to around 120, after it had more than half of its fleet grounded over airworthiness concerns. As of June, its debt to Garuda and GMF stood at US$118 million (S$164 million) and US$52 million respectively.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Indonesia's private airline Sriwijaya Air, which has had more than half of its fleet grounded, hopes to gradually resume full operations after it secured maintenance services from national carrier Garuda.

Eighteen out of 30 Sriwijaya airplanes have been grounded by the Transportation Ministry since last week over airworthiness concerns.

On Tuesday, Sriwijaya Air and national carrier Garuda renewed their management cooperation agreement, which will allow the former to send its aircraft for maintenance at Garuda's subsidiary, Garuda Maintenance Facility (GMF) AeroAsia.

The services are also available to Sriwijaya's low-cost carrier subsidiary NAM Air.

Sriwijaya Air's quality, safety and security director Toto Soebandoro told The Straits Times yesterday that the group has been able to access the services at GMF AeroAsia, which focuses on the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business.

This might allow its flights to return to the original frequency, he said. But he noted that the operation "will likely be adjusted" based on the airline's ability and needs.

Sriwijaya Air, which operates flights within Indonesia and to China, Malaysia and Timor-Leste, reportedly saw its daily number of flights falling from 245 to around 120.

The latest problem has emerged amid financial woes at the airline, which is owned by domestic tycoon Chandra Lie.

As of June, its debt to Garuda and GMF stood at US$118 million (S$164 million) and US$52 million respectively.

Sriwijaya Air's quality, safety and security director Toto Soebandoro told The Straits Times yesterday that the group has been able to access the services at GMF AeroAsia, which focuses on the maintenance, repair and overhaul business. This might allow its flights to return to the original frequency, he said.

It also held liabilities to other state-owned companies, such as oil and gas giant Pertamina and airport operators Angkasa Pura I and Angkasa Pura II.

Last November, Sriwijaya Air inked a management partnership agreement with Garuda Group to help enhance both its operational and financial performance.

This cooperation allowed Garuda to control a majority share in Indonesia, a fast-growing and lucrative aviation market. It also helped Sriwijaya to turn its financial loss into profit in this year's first quarter.

But the partnership turned sour after Sriwijaya shook up its top management early last month, affecting executives representing Garuda.

Garuda later removed its logos from Sriwijaya's fleet, citing differences in service standards. GMF also withdrew its services to Sriwijaya.

Late last month, Mr Toto, in a leaked internal letter, recommended that Sriwijaya stop its operations until it improves its safety standards.

This was similar to what the Transportation Ministry would later decide based on factors such as a lack of engineers as well as tools, equipment and spare parts for proper maintenance of its fleet, and an absence of maintenance by any MRO provider.

Last week, the aviation authority gave the airline five days to sort out its safety and security issues, and threatened to totally halt its operation yesterday if the problem is not solved.

The Transportation Ministry's airworthiness and aircraft operation director Avirianto said on Tuesday that as Sriwijaya's maintenance of its fleet is now guaranteed by GMF, the authority will not stop the entire operation of the airline.

GMF president director Tazar Marta Kurniawan said the company will assess the airworthiness of Sriwijaya's fleet on a daily basis.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2019, with the headline 'Sriwijaya Air aims to resume full operations with Garuda's help'. Print Edition | Subscribe