Garuda Indonesia commences flights between Makassar and Singapore, aiming to reduce travel times to the remote cities of East Indonesia.
On 1 June 2011, Garuda Indonesia began daily flights between Makassar (a.k.a. Ujung Pandang) and Singapore, using Boeing 737-500 aircraft with a capacity of 96 passengers.
Here is the schedule:
|GA848||Makassar to Singapore||15:00||17:50|
|GA849||Singapore to Makassar||18:50||22:00|
It was widely reported that Garuda'a new route is:
in line with the carrierâ€™s plans to develop Makassar as its third domestic hub after Jakarta and Bali, and as a gateway to East Indonesia.
Newspaper advertisements for Garuda - see right for an excerpt - have also promoted Garuda's strategy of increasing the number of flights and routes to/from Makassar. The lines in red denote new routes. (Click on the image to see full-size).
Makassar, we have a problem
Yet the new flight's schedule has an issue: to create a successful hub airport, an airline needs to have good connection times to other flights. In real English, passengers travelling via a hub airport shouldn't have to wait a long time between their international flight and the connecting domestic flight, or vice versa.
And everyone - Garuda management included - seems to have forgotten this, creating a schedule that either has poor connection times or misses Garuda's connecting domestic flights all together.
SINGAPORE TO MAKASSAR
The flight from Singapore (or "Singapura" in Bahasa Indonesia) to Makassar arrives at 10pm. By the time visitors have bought a tourist visa and changed terminals, there are virtually no domestic flights to connect to.
The only flight with a good connection is Garuda's
red-eye special overnight flight from Jakarta to Biak and Jayapura, which transits Makassar at 1am.
This means visitors wishing to travel from Singapore to e.g. Gorontalo will have a compulsory overnight stopover in Makassar - incurring the additional expense of a hotel room - before continuing their journey the next day. (It might also be possible to sleep at the airport, but it is not known whether this is permitted, let alone comfortable or safe.)
Tourists also arrive too late for an overnight bus to South Sulawesi's biggest attraction - Tana Toraja - at the nearby bus terminal, adding a day to their journey too.
MAKASSAR TO SINGAPORE
Once again, only the flight from Jayapura to Makassar connects nicely. Flights from Manado, Kendari, Gorontalo, etc. all arrive too late to connect for passengers to Garuda's flight to Singapore, and from Ambon far too early.
What is the solution - other airlines?
GOING FROM SINGAPORE TO EAST INDONESIA
Unfortunately, there are very few domestic flights on any airline from Makassar in the middle of the night, only flights to Jayapura or Sorong at 3 or 4am.
You could fly Air Asia to Makassar from Kuala Lumpur instead, but it arrives at 5pm. This is also too late for most connecting domestic flights to East Indonesia, but is at least a more passenger-friendly hour of the day.
RETURNING TO SINGAPORE FROM EAST INDONESIA
However, tourists flying back from East Indonesia to Singapore have more choice: other airlines with better connection times.
For example, you can fly Batavia Air to Makassar from Sorong, the nearest airport to the increasingly famous Raja Ampat diving paradise in West Papua.
You can view the Makassar Airport Wikipedia page for a more general guide of other airlines' flights to/from Makassar.
Is Garuda's Hub in Makassar Doomed to Failure?
Some would also argue that Garuda's strategy of increasing flights from Makassar to East Indonesia has a competitive disadvantage compared to Indonesia's other government-owned airline:
Merpati Nusantara Airlines
Merpati's mission is to serve remote cities/destinations - especially in East Indonesia - and recently moved its headquarters to Makassar. It operates several flights from Makassar that no other airline operates; some of the more useful routes for visitors are Makassar to Kupang (West Timor), Makassar to Maumere (Flores), and Makassar to Yogyakarta direct.
Sometimes, Merpati also receives government subsidies to maintain routes that are necessary (because there are no other air, road or sea links) but unprofitable. Garuda is majority owned by the government, but does not receive government subsidies in this way.
Merpati already operates flights on many of Garuda's new routes from Makassar to remote cities in East Indonesia. If budget-conscious travellers prefer the cheaper no-frills service of Merpati to the more expensive full-service of Garuda, Garuda's new flights to/from Makassar may quickly become unprofitable.
In conclusion, for its new Makassar hub to be successful in encouraging more tourists to visit Makassar and its more remote areas in the east of the country, Garuda will need to reconsider and reconfigure its flight times between Makassar and Singapore, along with its domestic connecting flights. Alternately, Garuda could give passengers a free Makassar hotel stay in both directions; however, that is unlikely to happen because it would be prohibitively expensive.
But without any further action, Garuda's competitors will continue to have an advantage, and Makassar's "great expectation" (sic) of becoming a successful Garuda hub airport will fail.
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