Merpati crash may spook tourists

THE TRAVEL trade in eastern Indonesia fear that Merpati Nusantara Airline’s tragic accident in Kaimana, West Papua last weekend has made it more difficult for them to sell the destination.

The region has already been finding it a challenge to attract visitors after the EU banned all Indonesian airlines in 2007. In addition, travellers are also not covered by travel insurance should they choose to fly on any of these airlines.

Incito Tours Makassar managing director, Sebastian Ng, said: “Except for Batavia Air, which has been exempted from the ban, other airlines serving eastern Indonesia are still on EU’s black list. Travellers who still want to fly need to sign a letter that they are flying at their own risk.”

“A number of European tour operators had previously dropped flight itineraries to Flores and Komodo, and now only sell live-a-board tours,” Ng added. “Moreover, there are some routes in the region that are only served by Merpati. With this accident, things may get worse.”

Flores Exotic Tours director, Leonardus Nyoman, said the accident would worsen Merpati’s already dismal image.

“International travellers had been avoiding flying the airline even before this accident because of its unreliable schedule, delays and cancellations due to engine problems,” he said. “They would fly Merpati only when there was no other choice.”

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