August 24 2013

After an absence of over a dozen years, British Airways is rumoured to be on the verge of returning to Jakarta.

jakartaBritish Airways have long declared their desire to serve more of Asia’s fast growing economies and, although the Indonesian economy has recently entered something of a difficult period, it is surely only a question of time before flights to Jakarta are resumed.

One of the more persistent rumours is that any new route to Jakarta will be operated as a tag-on to its Singapore service and that British Airways will receive 5th freedom rights to fly passengers between the two South East Asian cities.

Others have suggested that a more likely option is for British Airways to kill-two-birds-with-one-stone and resume flights to both Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta at the same time. British Airways has been absent from the Malaysian capital for almost as along and, now that Malaysian Airlines is part of the oneworld alliance, there is a perhaps a stronger argument that British Airways should serve Jakarta as a tag-on to KL and leave Singapore, one of its premium business routes, as a stand-alone service.

There are currently no direct flights between the UK and Indonesia. Garuda, the national carrier of Indonesia, had planned to commence services between Jakarta & London Gatwick this year but has had to postpone them until mid 2014 at the earliest. The reason given was that the poor condition of the runway at Jakarta does not currently allow the airline to operate its 777-300 at full passenger / freight capacity and that, until that hurdle is overcome, the airline cannot operate the service profitably.

Of course the only reason that Garuda chose London Gatwick is the lack of slots at Heathrow. Any London – Jakarta service will be heavily biased towards the business market so, if British Airways does re-commence flights from Heathrow, Garuda might consider shelving their flights altogether.

For British Airways, the question of whether or when to return to Jakarta will be determined not just by potential traffic but also by juggling slots and aircraft. As British Airways consolidates the slots its secured from the takeover of bmi, the perception is that it will increasingly ditch a number of short and medium haul routes in favour of more lucrative long haul routes.

With British Airways also currently in the process of a huge fleet replacement program, there is also the issue of which aircraft the airline would use on any new service (ie if not as a tag-on to Singapore). Being a mainly business orientated route with relatively low volume, a Boeing 777-200 would be the natural choice from the airline’s existing fleet with either the Boeing 787 Dreamliner 8 or 9 series being the ideal long-term option.

British Airways 787 Dreamliner