Budget carrier Lion Mentari Airlines says it is keen to expand its presence in Manado, adding cruise shifts to the flights and accommodation it already offers in the North Sulawesi capital.
Lion’s full-service spinoff Batik Air flew its maiden flight from Jakarta to Manado on Friday, and the company also operates a 170-room four-star hotel in the city.
“We will provide cruise ships here, catering to tourists who want to see Bunaken and Raja Ampat,” president director Rusdi Kirana said over the weekend, referring to Bunaken National Park, a marine park north of Sulawesi, and the Raja Ampat islands of West Papua.
“We want to support Manado as a hub in eastern Indonesia,” Rusdi said, declining to give details on the timing or size of the cruise ship investment. The company will target tourists from east Asia, Rusdi said.
Batik Air plans to open its first international route between Manado and Guangzhou in China by the fourth quarter of this year, easing access to and from other east Asian cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tokyo and Seoul.
“Manado is nearer to East Asia compared to Jakarta, so the costs would be cheaper,” Rusdi said.
Lion also plans to open a pilot and aerospace school in Manado to support its business there, he added.
Hatta Rajasa, the coordinating minister for the economy, said the government is planning to expand Manado’s Sam Ratulangi Airport so that it can service long-haul aircraft used on many international routes. “Manado will be incredible. So we must be aggressive in developing our connectivity,” Hatta said.
In March, Lion launched Malindo Airlines through a partnership with Malaysia’s National Aerospace and Defense Industries to service Malaysia.
The airline has recently made massive purchases of fleet from Airbus and Boeing, but its safety record entered the spotlight after an April water landing in Bali.