Friday, December 1, 2023 | 03:23 WIB

Kertajati International Airport – Gov’t’s lofty ambition, to be fully operational by Oct 2023


Jakarta, IO – The Government is going to move flights from Husein Sastranegara Airport in Bandung to “West Java International Airport (BIJB) Kertajati” in Majalengka in October. It is interesting to analyze the impact of this relocation on the local economy, particularly in Bandung and Majalengka, and by extension, in West Java Province. As is widely reported, Husein Sastranegara Airport will soon stop serving scheduled commercial flights. Bandung residents have relied on the airport that began its commercial flights in 1973. It is suspected that the Government is shutting it down because it wants to optimize the sadly-underutilized Kertajati Airport. 

Named after a hero air force pilot, Husein Sastranegara Airport is the main airport serving West Java. It has domestic and international routes for both scheduled and non-scheduled flights. However, these will be soon relocated to a newer, more modern airport more than 100 km away. The new airport facility is in Majalengka, a regency located in the northern part of the province, close to Cikopo-Palimanan (Cipali) expressway. It is also the second-largest airport in Indonesia based on area size after Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (SHIA). It has helped to facilitate air traffic at SHIA. Kertajati Airport is managed by state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II (Persero) and was inaugurated on May 24, 2018. It has a single 3,000-meter long runway and is thus capable of accommodating wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 777. 

The relocation actually started in July 2019, with the transfer of at least 53 domestic flights. Some 53 flights are operated by airlines such as Garuda Indonesia, AirAsia, Citilink and Lion Air. As a result, Bandung residents will have to endure quite a long trip to and from the airport. However, the relocation has not gone smoothly as expected, due to passengers’ lack of interest. In fact, lowcost airline (LCC) Citilink was forced to terminate three of its flights from Kertajati. 

Based on historical data of flight volume in airports in West Java, in 2021 Kertajati only accounted for 2.58 percent of total flights in the region (see Figure 1). By comparison, Husein Sastranegara served 42.52 percent of flights in the same period, followed by Cakrabhuwana Airport with 39.8 percent. In addition to the fact that it was relatively new, the low volume was also due to its long distance from major cities in West Java, especially Bandung. It is located in Majalengka Regency, a relatively underdeveloped area. (FIGURE-1) 

If we look further at the figure of arrival and departure flights (Figure 2), we can see that until 2021 Kertajati Airport only recorded 183 arrival flights, down 74 percent compared to 2020. This was primarily caused by the Covid-19 pandemic which crippled the air transport after the imposition of public mobility restrictions. However, it was still way too low, compared to Husein Sastranegara which served 3,022 flights in the same period. (FIGURE-2) 

The lopsided comparison of the two airports is predominantly the result of economic factors. As we all know, Bandung is the capital city of West Java Province, its financial and commercial heart. If we look at some of the key economic indicators, we can see a jarring difference (see Figure 3). Bandung’s gross regional product (PDRB) in 2022 was Rp211.25 trillion (at constant prices). By contrast, Majalengka’s PDRB in the same period was only Rp24.3 trillion. In terms of PDRB per capita, Bandung is already at Rp85.82 million, while Majalengka is still stuck at Rp18.2 million. Furthermore, although the unemployment rate in Bandung is higher, its poverty rate was lower than that of Majalengka, at 4.25 percent and 12.33 percent, respectively. (FIGURE-3) 

The relocation will certainly impact the local economy. The question is, how much of an impact it will exert on improving the economy in the area and West Java as a whole? One of the Government’s goals in building Kertajati Airport is to improve wealth distribution and promote equitable development in West Java. It is hoped the airport will trigger increased economic activity in the area. However, one should also pay attention to the attractiveness of Kertajati Airport in bringing in business players (airlines) and passengers. If the airport is deemed unattractive, economic-wise, the impact will certainly be very small, and vice versa. 

The development of Kertajati Airport automatically required support infrastructure, in order for an economic ecosystem to emerge. Obviously, connectivity is a key aspect in any infrastructure development. Thus, the airport must also be complemented by good road infrastructure, public transportation and accommodation facilities that can support the needs of its users. And these should be developed in a comprehensive and integrated manner. In reality, this was not the case with regard to Kertajati Airport. When it became officially operational, its support facilities and infrastructure were still insufficient or unavailable. As a result, airlines and passengers were reluctant to use the airport, despite it being bigger and more modern. The distance between the two airports is also an issue. More than 100 km apart, it will take between 60 and 90 minutes by car to reach Kertajati from Husein Sastranegara, or longer without the toll road. The Cisumdawu expressway, which connects Bandung to Kertajati, was only inaugurated in mid-2023. 


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