It is not the first time that Indonesia’s largest carrier – and giant low-cost airline – Lion Air has come under the spotlight for negative reasons. A week ago, between Wednesday and Friday, over 2,000 passengers were left stranded at Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International Airport following massive cancellations of the carrier. After two days of anger and mounting tension – some passengers even invaded the apron blocking some of Lion Air’s parked aircraft – authorities started to intervene to clean up the mess. Airport Authority Angkasa Pura II stepped in to begin to reimburse stranded passengers, as Lion Air employees miraculously disappeared. The airport company then refunded some US$41,000 from its own finances to over 500 passengers.
Indonesian newspapers questioned also the slow reaction from the Ministry of Transportation, evocating a case of nepotism involving Indonesia President Joko Widodo (Jokowi). Lion Air President and CEO Rusdi Kirana has indeed been named recently political advisor to Jokowi.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Transportation finally announced it will form an audit team to investigate Lion Air’s negligence. The team will also look at the absence of support from the carrier to its passengers. According to Transportation Ministry Regulation 77/2011, airlines have to provide food, accommodation, and reimburse passengers in case of delays. None of this had been assumed by the Indonesian carrier. The audit already concluded that Lion Air violated the law twice by failing to meet regulations.
At a press conference hosted on February 25, the airline President, Director Edward Sirait, welcomed the audit and denied that the carrier was facing financial problems. The carrier already reimbursed the airport authority for the cash advance it provided to stranded passengers. Sirait admitted that targeting a punctuality of 87.5%, Lion Air’s current performance was under 80%.