Adelaide is a likely destination for low-cost airline Lion Air


The budget Indonesian airline plans to fly to 10 Australian cities.
Experts say Adelaide passengers soon could be flying to Indonesia with the low-cost carrier.

The airline’s impending arrival puts the spotlight once again on the safety of budget Asian airlines.

In November, 2004, a Lion Air MD-82 skidded off the runway at Solo, Indonesia, killing 31 people.

Last September, 91 people were killed when the McDonnell Douglas MD-82, operated by budget airliner One-Two-Go, crashed on the Thai resort town of Phuket.

Although the Civil Aviation Safety Authority has not received an application from the airline yet, experts say Lion Air plans to enter the Australian market by the end of the year.

If the airline does apply to operate in Australia – a process that can take six months to finalise – it will need to meet strict local safety regulations, among the highest in the world.

Lion Air – Indonesia’s largest private airline – plans to buy more Boeing 737-900 series jets to support its expansion.

The purchase would be in addition to 122 jets of the same type the company had previously ordered from Boeing.

The carrier is also looking at expanding into Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Lion Air president Rusdi Kirana said: “We are in the process of setting up our operation in Australia. We are planning to allocate six of our jets there, catering to 10 cities.”

Derek Sadubin, chief operating officer for the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, said the airline was confident of being approved to launch services by the end of the year and this “could definitely include Adelaide”.

Mr Sadubin said customers could expect “rock bottom discounted fares” if the airline expands to Australia.

But, he said, Lion Air would “have to work harder than other airlines because (the reputation of) Indonesian carriers is unfortunately tainted by safety issues in the past”.

An Adelaide Airport spokesman said it was yet to receive contact from Lion Air, “but we are following their activities with interest and would look forward to talking with them in the near future”.