Airlines in Indonesia get green light to fly to US again after spate of crashes

The US Federal Aviation Administration clears carriers to resume routes after almost 10-year ban with agency saying aviation sector now meets international safety standards.

Garuda Indonesia aircraft at the Sukarno-Hatta airport in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta. Indonesian airlines have been cleared to fly to the United States. Romeo Gacad / AFP
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Indonesian airlines have been cleared to fly to the United States after regulators there scrapped a nearly decade-long ban imposed for safety reasons, an official said Monday.

US transport officials said in a letter Indonesia’s aviation sector had met international standards and its safety rating had accordingly been upgraded.

“Today all Indonesian airlines can fly to the United States,” said the director general of civil aviation, Suprasetyo, who like many Indonesians, goes by one name.

“This will have a very positive impact on our aviation sector and public trust.”

Indonesian carriers were banned from flying to the US in 2007 after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded their safety rating.

The European Union also imposed restrictions the same year although these have since been lifted. A few airlines, including Garuda and the Indonesian branch of Malaysia-based AirAsia, now fly to Europe.

The restrictions followed a series of accidents including fatal crashes by state-owned Garuda.

Crashes have continued since 2007, including the loss of 162 lives aboard an AirAsia flight in late 2014.

But in a letter to the transport ministry, the FAA said Indonesia’s efforts to improve its oversight system had resulted in “positive findings” during a safety assessment earlier this year.

Mr Suprasetyo said several Indonesian airlines had expressed interest in flying to the US, but Garuda already had enough planes and crew to begin services.

The airline is expected to start direct flights to the US next year, expanding its long-haul international network which includes destinations like London and Amsterdam.

Garuda in April ordered 14 new-generation Airbus planes for US$4 billion.

The FAA upgraded Indonesia’s status to “Category 1”.

“Technically, all airlines can fly from Indonesia to the US,” a spokesman for the transport ministry said.

Garuda Indonesia has expressed an interest to start flying to the United States, he said.

A Garuda spokesman was not available for immediate comment.

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