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NEWS

ISSUE 98

 

SELAPARANG AIRPORT LOMBOK TO CLOSE 30 SEPTEMBER!

Welcome to The Lombok Guide – Lombok’s complete tourism paper and your guide to the best that the island has to offer. The Lombok Guide is published on Lombok every two weeks and contains valuable information for all visitors to our magical island.

With the new Lombok International Airport rumoured to be opening on 1 October 2011, the Indonesian Civil Aviation Authority has announced the closure of Lombok’s Selaparang Airport at the end of this month.

Visitors travelling to Lombok after 30 September 2011 are urged to check with their airline or travel agent to confirm whether they will be arriving at Lombok International Airport (Bandara Internasional Lombok). For more details, see our special report on pages 10 and 36.

To find out more, pick up a copy of The Lombok Guide from the locations listed on http://www.thelombokguide.com/deadline_publishing.html or visit www.thelombokguide.com and discover the magic of Lombok for yourself… like thousands of others, you’ll be enchanted!

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AIRPORT UPDATE…The Race is on!

The race is on to complete construction at the new Lombok International Airport in central Lombok in time for the latest announced opening date – 1 October 2011.

We have been hearing announcements of the airport’s imminent opening now for over two years and, for many, the latest announcement may be a case of “cry wolf”. We visited the airport site for one of our regular updates on Thursday, 8 September 2011 and can confirm that work at BIL (Bandara Internasional Lombok) is in fact being fast-tracked. However, whether it will be ready to open on 1 October is debatable.

As on each occasion we have visited the airport site in Tanak Awu, the grounds surrounding the airport remain overgrown with weeds, although some attempt to clear it has been made by local farmers collecting feed for their cows. The car park and roadside verges are all in poor condition with broken paving and rampant weeds. Landscaping is desperately needed and unlikely to be complete by 1 October.

More worrying are the sections of missing concrete and incomplete drainage systems in the aircraft landing area, adjacent to the two passenger boarding bridges, and the large areas of dirt and construction debris on either side of the terminal entrance.

The façade of the main terminal building is still dominated by scaffolding as workers attempt to finish the outside walls. Entering the building, we were amused to see that the concrete support pillars that we photographed months ago showing water damage and concrete cancer have now been covered with shiny aluminium casings. Likewise, the chrome railings on the stairways have been cleaned but are still covered in rust spots.

Inside, the terminal is a hive of activity as a reported 300 employees are working 20 hour days, seven days a week, in the race to finish the airport.

The airport itself is divided into two sections – a domestic terminal and an international terminal, with separate departure and arrival areas, and waiting rooms, together with retail shop spaces and related airport facilities, such as immigration control, etc.

Walking through the huge and largely empty spaces, there is evidence of what each section will look like when complete. Baggage conveyors are installed but not yet operating. Escalators that had been partially assembled for the past 8 months are now installed. In a cavernous room in the domestic terminal, three workers sat on the floor painstakingly assembling seats for the waiting room.

On the second floor, gaps in the ceiling show where electrical wiring still needs to be installed; there are no lights or fire safety systems as yet. Another team of workers were trying to fit glass panels into hundreds of metres of empty frames.

Security tried to prevent us from entering the third floor; with good reason. This is the area of the airport destined to house the so-called sky bridge and airport restaurant. As in the past, the space is a mess with much work still to be carried out. Walls, ceilings, electrical wiring and windows are yet to be completed and most of the area is open to the elements. When asked about the “sky restaurant” a senior airport official told us that tenders are yet to be sent out for a restaurant operator. If the airport does manage to open by 1 October, don’t expect to be dining there any time soon.

Security at the airport is tight, with an estimated 200 security officers now securing the premises and making it difficult to gain entry. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to interview Pak Eko Permadi, Head of Risk Management and Security for the airport developer, PT Angkasa Pura I.

Pak Eko assured us that the delays to the airport’s opening were over and that PT Angkasa Pura I are determined to have construction completed by 1 October. When asked if reports in other Lombok media that the Indonesian President would arrive to open the airport on 1 October were true, he said that it was unlikely; adding that 1 October would be the “soft opening” date for the airport.

“Soft opening” is a term often used in Indonesia, meaning a type of trial period at the commencement of operating a project. He said the President was more likely to arrive around mid-October for the Grand Opening ceremony.

Pak Eko said that the construction of the terminal was nearing completion, with finishing of the second floor scheduled in the next couple of weeks. The marble floors throughout the 21000 sqm building would then need to be polished; he estimated another 10 days to complete this work.

The list of work still to be done seems exhaustive, including setting up check in areas, customs and immigration control, visa processing, baggage handling, first aid post, emergency services, retail shops and more.

“Our schedule includes ‘Testing and Commissioning’ to take place on 15 September, followed by ‘Simulation’ (including calibration of equipment) on 17 or 18 September,” Pak Eko stated, adding, “Selaparang Airport will close for good on 30 September and BIL will open on 1 October, with all flights being directed to the new airport.”

Simulation includes a landing at the airport, although passengers will not disembark. According to Pak Eko, three planes have already tested the runway at the airport; although all have been smaller narrow-body aircraft, including a 10-seater plane operated by the Indonesian Air Force. To date no wide-body planes or larger aircraft, such as those operated out of Selaparang Airport by Garuda and Lion Air, have landed at the airport.
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Selaparang Airport will officially close on
30 September 2011

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According to Pak Eko, Selaparang Airport would be closed at 30 September and equipment – including the “crash cars”, x-ray machines and some ground handling equipment – would then be moved to BIL and assembled there in time for the opening on 1 October.

When questioned on what would happen if BIL wasn’t completed in time, Pak Eko insisted that the airport would commence operating on 1 October, adding “It will be ready. The documents have already been lodged with the Civil Aviation Authority. Selaparang will cease operating on 30 September and BIL will open on 1 October.”

Indeed, we have copies of documents from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation that confirm that “Selaparang Airport Mataram will be closed totally as from 10.00 on 30 September 2011” and “As from 01 October 2011 at 02.00 all incoming and outgoing aircraft shall use the new Lombok International Airport – Praya.”

When pressed for a contingency plan in the event of Selaparang being closed and BIL not being ready to open, Pak Eko reluctantly replied, “In that case, aircraft will be re-directed to land at Bali and a shuttle service will operate to BIL’s domestic terminal.”

We take this to mean that, in the event of BIL not being operational by 1 October, international flights will diverted to Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport and domestic flights will transfer passengers to Lombok International Airport. It is assumed that priority will be given to making the domestic section of the terminal building at least functional by 1 October.

Pak Eko confirmed that Garuda, Merpati, Trans Nusa, Lion Air and all airlines that currently operate out of Selaparang Airport will operate from BIL as from 1 October.

When asked which international airlines would operate out of the new airport, he answered that Garuda and Silk Air would provide international services (as they currently do from Selaparang). The government has yet to market to other international airlines, although it is believed that Air Asia is interested in commencing a service between Australia and Lombok.

Having seen the progress to date, and seeing how much work still has to be completed in just three weeks (at the time of our visit,) the closure of Selaparang Airport seems premature and is worrying news. If the 1 October deadline isn’t met, or testing and simulation show problems, Lombok could well be temporarily without an airport.

The abrupt closure of Selaparang, located between Ampenan and Mataram cities, is also unwelcome news for businesses and residents located in the tourism areas of Senggigi and the Gili Islands.

Lombok International Airport is located approximately 40 km south of Mataram, and 49 km southeast of Senggigi. We tested the route on 8 September by catching a local taxi and using the new airport link road currently under construction.

The one-way taxi fare from Senggigi to BIL was Rp 140 000; as opposed to around Rp 40 000 to Selaparang Airport. Travelling time from Senggigi to BIL was 74 minutes; compared to around 20 minutes to Selaparang.

Roadwork leading from the airport to the West Lombok administrative centre of Gerung is progressing well, but will not be complete by 1 October. The new bridge, in particular, will still take several months to construct. Even when complete, this road will only cut around 15 minutes from the travelling time between Senggigi and the airport.

Once the dual carriage airport access road joins to the local roads north from Gerung, traffic is relatively heavy, especially with trucks and local buses using the road to Lembar Harbour. Added to this is the problem of many small rural villages located in the area, which hold regular parades and wedding processions on the road. Many hoteliers fear that buses and hotel vehicles may need up to 2 hours to provide airport transfers for their guests.

While the new airport will almost certainly open up development in the south of the island, we predict that more people will start using fast boat services to access the more popular west and north coast tourism areas. Fast boats are already a popular option for many people travelling to the Gili Islands from Bali and several operators, including Gili Cat and Blue Water Express, also provide transfers from mainland Lombok to Bali.

While the fares for fast boats have been seen by some as expensive in comparison to price of domestic flights between Bali and Lombok, the added cost of transport to BIL and a minimum one hour trip now makes the fast boats a highly competitive option. If ever there was an opportunity for a savvy fast boat operator to start a service operating out of Senggigi Beach, now is the time!

At the time of going to press, it is almost impossible to predict whether BIL will be completed by 1 October. Much depends on the determination of airport management and how much the crews working 20 hour rotating shifts at the airport can achieve in the next few weeks. Meanwhile, turn to page 32 for our pictorial story on the current progress…

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WHAT'S HOT!

• It’s no secret that the Southwest coast of Lombok is one of our favourite areas on the island but, as we predicted 18 months ago, the illegal gold mining activities are taking their toll on stability in the Sekotong area. While this hasn’t affected the Southwest (Secret Islands) Gilis, travellers are urged to use caution on the mainland and to avoid visiting the gold mining operations or discussing this sensitive issue with locals involved in the mining.

As mentioned in “What’s Hot!” last issue, Deli Senggigi has just opened in Senggigi – giving us a wider range of hard-to-find products locally! Owned by the delightful Ibu Aam who – as some of us are lucky enough to know – is an amazing cook, the Deli will now sell delicious home-made specialties every Tuesday. Last Tuesday, the goodies on offer included take away packs of Pad Thai (authentic Thai-style noodles), home baked apple pie, freshly made salsa and tubs of hummus dip and chicken curry. The menu will vary each week but is sure to be fresh and delicious!

Deli Senggigi stocks imported and local produce, including fresh milk, butter and cheeses, fresh herbs such as coriander, spices, lentils, sauces, jams, Lindt chocolates, biscuits and more. Located in Senggigi Galleria on the main street, next door to Rambo Pet Shop, the deli is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 8pm. Ph: 693177

The Beach Club in Batu Bolong has turned into sports central lately, to the delight of footy fans from around the world! AFL Grand Final day (always big at The Beach Club) is coming up on Saturday, 1 October, and will be broadcast live on the big screen in the bar. Then on Sunday, 2 October, the popular bar and restaurant will screen the NRL Grand Final live. In addition, all matches in the World Cup rugby are on from now until the 23 October. If football is your thing, join the lively crowd of bar stool players, order a real Aussie pie and chips from the great menu, and enjoy a cold beer or two! Ph: 693637. www.thebeachclublombok.com

Incredible as it may seem, the future of Selaparang Airport is still unclear, even as the government prepares to close the doors to the public at the end of this month. It seems the government isn’t even sure who exactly owns the airport!

A special task force has been formed to investigate its ownership and identify whether Selaparang is actually owned by state airport developer, PT Angkasa Pura I, the NTB government or the West Lombok government.

It seems unbelievable that the new Lombok International Airport has been under construction since 2008 and yet the government has waited until now to decide what will happen to the existing airport when it closes.

Other reliable sources suggest that Selaparang will become a private airport serving the mining industry, with a joint venture deal between Pt Angkasa Pura I and local mining firm, Merukh Enterprises, on the cards. Stay tuned!

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GARUDA PILOTS THREATEN STRIKE

Another strike by Garuda is looming, with pilots unable to reach an agreement with the airline over wages and conditions.

Initially based on a call for pay parity between Indonesian cockpit crew and contract foreign pilots, the labour discontent driving the strike has widened to embrace a longer list of grievances by the airline’s employees against management.

Unlike the one-day strike by a portion of the airline’s pilots on 28 July 2011, the threatened industrial action will reportedly be joined by the Garuda Employees Union (Sekarga) and the Garuda Cabin Crew Association.

Indonesia’s Ministry of State Owned Enterprises (BUMN) says it regrets that the Garuda Pilot Association (APG) have declared their intent to strike again in September 2011, following the Union's failure to achieve an agreement with the Airline.

According to Bisnis.com, the Deputy Minister for infrastructure and logistics at BUMN, Sumaryanto Widayatin, has called on the APG to show professionalism and work to restore the synergy of the national flag carrier.
“They (APG) has brought this problem to the industrial court without understanding that the strike action they will undertake is a criminal act,” Sumaryanto said.

He went on to suggest that the image of Garuda will suffer and decline if the APG undertake a strike instead of achieving a compromise with management.

“A strike will only favour personal interests over company interests, which means they lack a sense of ownership,” Sumaryanto noted.

Sumaryanto said the BUMN is always open to play the role of a mediator in negotiations between the airline and its pilots, providing a quick resolution can be achieved to end the prolonged discord.

“We have repeatedly mediated the dispute. That which has been done by the Minister for BUMN, Bapak Mustafa, has been ‘too good’. I hope the APG will soften its stance.”

The Deputy Minister prayed the APG will reconsider their plans to go on strike. He said it was the obligation of the APG to support Garuda and its current successful journey towards profitability.

“Many of their complaints have no basis. One (complaint) is the contracts offered to foreign pilots, which will soon come to an end,” he added.

APG president, Stephanus Gerardus Rahadi, confirmed to the press that his Union remains at an impasse with the airline after eight days of negotiations mediated by the BUMN Ministry.

“The management of Garuda is not being serious in handling our three main demands: communication, working contracts and contracts for foreign pilots,” said Rahardi. “We are encountering the same problem.

This action is the accumulated effect of Garuda’s mismanagement.”

Exactly when the strike will commence has yet to be announced.

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LOCAL SCENE

LOMBOK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

With the new airport apparently nearing completion, in this issue we bring you
this special photo story from our visit on 8 September 2011...
A picture paints a thousand words

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MR FIXER

(Tongue-in-cheek answers to your personal building problems)

QUESTION: I have recently arrived on the beautiful holiday island of Lombok after many years of service with the UN. I have decided to retire and buy a small villa by the sea in the popular tourist area of Senggigi. Before I do, I would like you to give me your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world.

MR FIXER: We did some research on your behalf and found out that in Eastern Europe, they didn’t know what “honest” meant.  In Western Europe, they didn’t know what “shortage” meant.  In Africa, they didn’t know what “food” meant. In China, they didn’t know what “opinion” meant. In the Middle East, they didn’t know what “solution” meant. In South America, they didn’t know what “please” meant. In the USA, they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.

QUESTION: Dental treatment in Europe and the UK has become such a lottery, only the rich or privately insured can afford to have dental work done before it is too late. If you think you are going to need emergency dental care in the UK, it’s a good idea to book an appointment at least 6 months in advance. 

That’s why it was a pleasant surprise to find that excellent dental care in Lombok was not only available, but almost instantly available without an appointment until 11pm at night and at a fraction of the cost!
Due to a combination of circumstances (including my failing eyesight), I managed to walk through a glass door causing multiple lacerations to my face and arms, breaking my glasses and causing damage to my front teeth, which required emergency dental surgery.  

Two teeth were removed and my upper jaw required a bone graft. Even after paying for the new glass in the door and two titanium posts and implants, I have paid less than I would have had to pay in Europe for the same treatment.

The stitches are being removed on Thursday but the whole experience has left me looking 10 years older, especially so until my new teeth are fitted. Do you think I did the right thing?

MR FIXER: Yes. Having teeth removed and a new door fitted on the same day is always recommended. Look on the bright side! When your new teeth are in, you will look 10 years younger!

QUESTION: I have recently received an email advert for “gentlemen’s enlargement pills”. Do these things actually work?

MR FIXER: My friend George has just got himself a penis enlarger. Her name is Angela.

QUESTION: I am Daniel Tagro Wintston Matumbi, the only son of the late Mr Desire Kone Tagro Matumbi from Nigeria. Before my father was assassinated during the recent election crisis in my country, he deposited a large sum of money into a bank account in my name and gave the bank details to my mother, who died recently passed away under mysterious circumstances in a shotgun incident. 

My poor sister (who is 16) is unable to leave the country as she needs urgent medical treatment and is under house arrest. I am seeking a trustworthy person to whom I can transfer USD 8,500,000 so that my sister and I can start a new life away from these people who are trying to kill us and seize our property. 

I have visited the bank and met the director who assures me that the money is intact and that once details of where to transfer the money are submitted, he will commence transfer proceedings immediately. Can you recommend such a person?

MR FIXER: No.

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NEW COMPENSATION RULES FOR INDONESIAN AIRLINES

Indonesian airlines are now being compelled by the government to bring compensation paid to disappointed passengers and in the event of catastrophic events into line with international airline practices.
A Transportation Ministry decree signed on 8 August 2011 provides for a number of changes that will impact on those flying in Indonesia, effective from 8 November 2011.

The traveling public can look to the following changes:

• Airlines operating more than 4 hours behind schedule will be obliged to pay Rp 300,000 (US $34) per passenger.

• Airlines rerouting passengers via an unscheduled stop must pay Rp 150,000 (US $17) to each passenger.

• Passengers whose luggage is lost by the airline will be entitled to be paid Rp 200,000 (US $23) per kilogram, to a maximum of Rp 4 million (US $455).

• Cargo lost by an airline must be compensated at Rp 100,000 (US $11.40) per kilogram.

• Cargo damaged by an airline must be compensated at Rp 50,000 (US $5.70) per kilogram.

• Catastrophic events resulting in a passenger fatality occurring because of the airline’s negligence will be compensated to a minimum amount of Rp 1.25 billion (US $142,000).

The Indonesian National Air Carrier Association (INACA), while accepting that the changes in the rules are a natural evolution in improving service to the public, are asking for more than 3 months to put procedures and insurance in place to meet the new requirements imposed by the government.

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LOST IN PARADISE

Bali Post reports that 19 unclaimed and unidentified bodies, believed to be foreign tourists, are stored in the morgue of Bali’s Sanglah General Hospital.

Dr Ida Bagus Putu Alit, the head of the Forensic Section at Sanglah said that 19 John and Jane Doe's have accumulated at his facility between 19 July and 1 September 2011, with no friends or family members coming to the hospital to identify the remains or claim them for final disposition.

The latest body to enter the facility did so on 30 August 2011. She was a woman, identified only as “Mrs X”, found in the Hotel Rita on Jalan Poppies No I in Kuta. The woman had been dead in the hotel for between 18-24 hours before being discovered by hotel staff.

The woman is believed to be between 40-45 years of age, black skinned, 168 cm tall and weighing 119 kilograms.

An examination of the woman’s body indicates she had a medical history that included a caesarian birth procedure.

An autopsy of the mystery woman’s body recovered 82 condom capsules of narcotics containing methamphetamine. NusaBali reports that the weight of the drugs found in the stomach of the woman totalled 1.2 kilograms, leading police to conclude the woman was acting as “a mule” for a drug syndicate. It is believed the woman died as a result of one or more of the packages leaking the drug into her body.

If no one clams the remains of the unidentified dead, authorities will preserve photographs and physical evidence for future reference before eventually sending the bodies for cremation at Mumbal in South Bali.

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