Travelling to Indonesia could become much easier next month, when the country’s national airline Garuda’s maiden flight between Chennai and Medan is set to take off. Indonesia’s acting ambassador to India Rizali W. Indrakesuma told Chennai businessmen on Friday that the new flight would strengthen trade and tourism ties between the two regions. Speaking on the sidelines of an interactive session with city Chambers of Commerce, Mr. Indrakesuma explained that this would be the first Garuda flight to India since the economic crisis of the late 1990s forced the airline to cut its earlier flight to Mumbai according to the Hindu Times. Asked why the resumption of flights is starting with Chennai, Mr. Indrakesuma said that one factor was the demographic make-up of Medan, in northern Sumatra, which is home to a large number of ethnic south Indians with links to Chennai. Increasing economic relationships with southern India could also be a factor.
“The negotiations are in the final stages and we hope the flights will start in June or at latest July,” he said. Garuda representatives are still holding talks with Civil Aviation Ministry officials in New Delhi to ensure that they fulfill all technical criteria to start operations in India.
Mr. Indrakesuma expects the airline to operate daily flights and later expand operations to Mumbai and Delhi. He hopes this will also increase the tourist inflow from India, which was just over 84,000 last year. Currently, Indian travellers to Indonesia must fly via Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
Garuda has earlier said that connecting flights from Medan will link Indian passengers to Jakarta and Bali.
The line could also be extended to Singapore, to cash in on the large market for Indian travellers to the city.