January 4, 2024
JAKARTA – An aviation expert has urged the government to ensure smooth access to Bali, as the island’s key airport, ranked among the worst in the world for punctuality, adds to the traffic woes of the popular holiday destination.
I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport, the principal gateway to Bali for tourists, occupied place 189 of 194 in management firm AirHelp’s global ranking of airports for their on-time performance, published last month.
Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi acknowledged the ranking but downplayed its significance: “Just because it says something’s bad, doesn’t mean that it’s bad.”
“I’m a conservative person, so [we need to] just use the money efficiently. The important thing is that security and safety are maintained, not that it looks pretty,” Budi said on Sunday, as quoted by Tribunnews.
With Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma International Airport and Syamsudin Noor International Airport in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, two more Indonesian airports landed among the bottom 10 of the performance rating released on Dec. 5.
Aviation expert Gerry Soetjatman, speaking to The Jakarta Post on Tuesday, named the prevalence of single-runway operations at most Indonesian airports, as well as the high number of aircraft movements, as contributing factors.
“Ngurah Rai is a very busy airport with heavy [flight] traffic, so we can take this as a reminder that the government still has much work to do regarding its airports,” Gerry said, emphasizing the need to improve both the operations and accessibility of airports.
But he also cautioned against taking the rating at face value and suggested the need for a nuanced interpretation of the rating by emphasizing the diverse context and assessment criteria.
He pointed out that Surabaya’s Juanda and Medan’s Kualanamu, both bustling international hubs with single runways, were absent from the rating.
He noted that a poor rating was not “always directly caused” by airport management but could also be due to external factors like the weather or congested roads.
A traffic crisis around the turn of the year forced passengers to get out of their cars and walk to the island’s airport due to heavy traffic on New Year’s Day.
Severe traffic began to cripple access to Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport on Dec. 29, causing delays and cancellations. The traffic jam began early in the day and stretched for several kilometers until midnight, reaching the Bali Mandara toll road.
“We were a little late in taking intensive measures,” said Bali Transportation Agency head IGW Samsi Gunarta on Saturday, as quoted by news agency Antara. “We will try to improve our threshold indicators.”
Transportation Minister Budi said the government had predicted congestion at the end of the year but that the situation was “extreme”, while also blaming gift shops for the congested roads, noting that “there was one extraordinary event that does not usually happen.”
To help alleviate the congestion, the government launched a shuttle service with 15 minutes headway on Tuesday, with services for passengers heading to the airport and to popular places like Nusa Dua, Kuta, Benoa, Legian and Canggu.
“Bali must have its own mass transportation system. It can no longer depend on private transportation, because tourist activities are massive,” said the transportation minister.