Simeulue is a beautiful small island lies in the western edge of Aceh. With its natural landscape of white sand and mountains, Simeulue is a heaven for surfing lovers. However, the island remains untouch by commercial airlines.
The flight schedule from and to Bandara Lasikin, Simeulue, is still the same with the airport schedule announced per October 2013. The passengers are hurdling their seats on Susi Air, the only airline to fly across the Simeulue sky.
The head of Lasikin Airport, Rusman explained, the regular flights fly twice a day on the route Medan-Simeulue and Simeulue-Medan in the morning and afternoon. The pioneer aircraftonly operates on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday with the route Simeulue-Meulaboh-Banda Aceh.
Today some passengers who already purchased tickets may not get any seat. This is due to the many passengers from Kuala Namu, Medan, to Lasikin and return. Susi Air only have 12 seats in their capacity and only plotted 11 seats to passengers. This quota, according to Rusman, occassionally insufficient to serve all passengers.
The Airport management had initiated to lobby a bigger capacity airlines to open their route to Sinabang, at least Garuda Indonesia ATR 72 with 78 seats. However, the twin turbo propellers could not fly through Simeulue air route due to the hills in the edge of its run way.
The airport management and Simeulue district government then anticipated it by cutting acrossthe hills. “The work has started early this year. We estimate two to three years to complete. It takes a long time because Simeulue often rains and it hinders the workers,” explained Rusman to Aceh Tourism during the invitation from Simeulue District Government for tourism coverage.
In addition, his management also expects the Lasikin airport expansion. It may help other airlines to open their flight to Simeulue. Since its first operation in 1980, Bandara Lasikin only 750 x 23 meters wide. Slowly, it was then expanded.
“Now the length is 1,400 meters and 30 meters width, but we are expecting to keep it increase,” said Rusman.
According to Rusman, the passengers flow in Lasikin Airport is increasing. Susi Air passengers with varied different backgrounds arrive every day. Many foreign tourists fly to enjoy the Simeulue charm, particularly for surfing.
However, to date, the Susi Air tarrif is relatively expensive. Comercial passengers with Kuala Namu-Lasikin route must pay 1 million IDR for return ticket or per person to pay 500,000 IDR one way with 1 hour journey. This is different to aviation pioneer which cost only 263,000 IDR one way. It leaves from Iskandar Muda Airport and transit in Cut Nyak Dien Airport (West Aceh) before landing in Lasikin with 2 hours journey.
Rusman considered the high tarrif of Susi Air owns by ASI Pujiastuti Aviation Ltd. is due to the absence of competitor. Passengers who want to go to Simeulue through air must go with Susi Air.
In 2013 the 50 seats capacity plane Fokker 50 opened its flight route to Simeulue, but it only lasted for three months due to the lack of passengers. “The airline only had one airplane so they stop their flight to Sinabang,” Rusman argued.
That is why if the hill contructioncould finish timely, other airlines would be more cooperative with Lasikin Airport and bring more people to Simeulue. “If the facilities are good, tourists and investors would come and it can increase people’s economy,” he continued.
According to air force statistics by Directorate General of Air Transportation Aceh Province, the total of passengers in Lasikin Airport in 2013 reached 9,848 who arrived and 10,635 passengers departed. It was slightly inclined compare to 2012 statistics, with arrived passengers reached 11,662 and 12,164 passengers departed. Up to July 2014, there had been 4,379 passengers arrived and 4,831 departed.
Simeulue with its natural richness will be the new favorite in the travel route for Aceh in the future. Thus, the airline transportation facilities is one of the core strategies to increase visitors, local income, and help to improve the local economies. (Makmur Dimila)