Feb 2, 2013

Indonesia - Batavia agents, passengers to wait for refund

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Passengers and ticket agents of the bankrupt Batavia Air will have to wait to get their money refunded, the court-appointed trustees who are taking over the ill-fated airline said on Thursday.

Andra Reinhard Pasaribu, one of trustees who currently manages the airline, said that customers were classified as concurrent creditors, as stated by 2004 Bankruptcy Law.

“Customers are concurrent creditors and we still do not know when we can refund their tickets. This is still a very early stage and we will have a lot of things to do starting next week,” Andra told a press conference.

“We are going to work hard to find the best solutions for Batavia Air and its creditors, including the passengers, and we want them to be patient.”

Passengers were asked to keep their tickets so that they could refund them when trustees had finished all the necessary processes.

Such uncertainty has caused passengers to get very upset and even fierce across the country.

More than 300 passengers were left stranded at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport waiting for an explanation about their flights in vain.

Many passengers lost their patience and shouted, demanding the airline take responsibility, while others simply sat and even fell asleep in the terminal’s lobby.

Passengers in Medan, North Sumatra, took district manager Tri Joni Siswanto hostage after their flights to Batam and Yogyakarta were cancelled. Batavia refused to refund tickets bought with cash.

Tri said the airline could do nothing to refund the tickets.

Chairunnisya of Pontianak, West Kalimantan, who bought a Jakarta-Pontianak ticket for her cousin on Wednesday afternoon, said the process of getting a refund was complicated. It was her cousin, who was still in Bogor, West Java, who had to process the refund.

She was also required to submit photocopies of her cousin’s ID card, booking code and bank account.

“But how can I print the ticket if the Batavia website is no longer online,” Chairunnisya asked.

In Palu, Central Sulawesi, passengers requested the management to refund their tickets.

Hendra, a passenger on the Palu-Surabaya route, argued that the company’s management had no reason to refuse refunds.

The same demands were also expressed by passengers in Semarang, Central Java. Yet, they did not know where to turn as the airline’s branch office at Ahmad Yani Airport was closed on Thursday.

An announcement was attached to the office door, advising passengers to contact the central office in Jakarta. “It’s too far [to go to Jakarta],” said Sinta, who held two tickets.

In Surakarta, Central Java, the Batavia branch office has been closed since Monday.

“The last ticket sales were stopped three days ago,” said the general manager of Surakarta’s Adi Soemarmo airport, Abdullah Usman.

Batavia only served one daily flight to Jakarta from Surakarta.

In Padang, West Sumatra, Nelia Budi of travel agent PT Brilian Agung said her company had a deposit of some 3 million rupiah (US$309) with Batavia and 20 tickets worth 8 million rupiah for flights on Thursday and Friday.

Based on her experience when Mandala Airlines ceased operations in January 2011, she said that agents never got their deposits back even after the airline resumed operations.

Agents in Palembang were a bit luckier, as they had already learned about the possibility of Batavia going into bankruptcy as it kept decreasing the number of its flights, and they advised their customers to buy tickets on other airlines.

“We don’t want to let the passengers down because it will be our problem,” said Suhendra, who works at a travel agent.

The chairman of the Indonesian Tour and Travel Association’s Yogyakarta branch, Edwin Ismedi Himma, said that when an airline was declared bankrupt, it was always the travel agents that suffered financial losses.

“The government should have provided us with protection from such things,” said Edwin, adding that the combined losses that travel agents would suffer from Batavia bankruptcy was estimated to be over 1 billion rupiah.

Economist Ahmad Ma’ruf of Yogyakarta Muhammadiyah University said that Batavia’s bankruptcy would not disturb the national flight industry as the company only held an 11 per cent market share.

“In the long run, the government needs to issue a regulation on the standard capital that a flight company must have in order to protect consumers and promote healthy competition,” Ma’ruf said.

*US$1=9,690 rupiah

Nurfika Osman

The Jakarta Post

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