Air Transport World

Indonesia's Merpati keeps on growing. (Merpati Nusantara Airlines)

Indonesia's Merpati Keeps on growing

In terms of route network and flights, Merpati Nusantara Airlines may be the biggest little air carrier in Asia. Certainly the number two state-owned airline of Indonesia is one of the most extensive and complex regionals in the world.

With 120-odd destinations scattered from one end of the vast archipelago, in western Sumatra, to the other in New Guinea, Merpati's network stretches more than 3,000 miles. Its fleet of 61 aircraft make more than 1,000 flights a week ranging in length from 15 to 700 nautical miles, to airports that run the gamut from Jakarta's modern Sukarno-Hatta Cengkareng, to short grass strips on remote, undeveloped islands.

For a Third World airline that has traditionally operated second-hand aircraft on government-mandated routes, Merpati, now in its 25th year of operation, is finally coming of age. Last year saw the airline break the one million passenger mark for the first time, revitalize its international status and commission a new look for its fleet of mostly old airplanes.

Merpati also has been cleaning house in recent years and lessening its dependence on the government and parent company, Garuda Indonesia.

President/Director Soeratman feels that Merpati is establishing a more professional image and relationship with the larger airline, sharing joint promotions, operations, ticketing and scheduling activities. Through these cooperative efforts. Merpati is also starting to be better recognized on international grounds.

The job of running Merpati--something of a challenge with its complex schedules, coupled with a diverse operating environment and a national economy that has been sliding downhill for several years with the decline of the Rupiah--has fallen on Soeratman, a 20-year employe who worked his way up through the ranks to become president in 1984. …

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