Starting mid-November, Garuda Indonesia will launch four-times weekly chartered flights between Kupang city in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara and Dili in Timor Leste, the first direct flight connecting the two countries.
Johanes Prihatin, head of the tourism office, Belu Regency, shared that at present, about 250 travellers cross the border of East Timor via the Motaain Checkpoint to head for Kupang or Jakarta daily.
“About 10 per cent continue their trip to Kupang by plane, the rest choose to take the road trip,” said Johanes, stressing that the new route will give travellers a shorter travel time from and to both cities.
The Garuda flights, serviced by the 70-seat ATR 72 aircraft, will mainly target the Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) segment of travellers, according to Kokoh Aritonang, general manager of Garuda East Nusa Tenggara.
Other than VFR, the growing number of business travellers from Kupang to Dili and vice versa is expected to contribute to demand for the route. “Although these are medium and small scale business people, their businesses are running pretty well in both cities,” explained Kokoh.
East Nusa Tenggara tourism stakeholders have recently been intensifying promotions, such as through participation at the recent Komodo Travel Mart.
Currently travellers from Kupang to Dili take a 45 minutes flight to the Border City of Atambua, then continue the journey in a two-hour road trip to Dili. Other alternatives include the existing flight operated by NAM Air from Kupang to Waingapu, then to Bali before departing to Dili the next day.
There are plans for the flights to be converted to scheduled flights in March next year.