Kupang, East Nusa Tenggara. The district head of Ngada, East Nusa Tenggara, decided to bar state-controlled airline Merpati Nusantara from landing at Turelelo Soa airport on Saturday after he was refused a ticket on a Merpati flight that was already fully booked.
“It is outrageous,” Marianus, the district head, said on Sunday. “I begged for a ticket for five hours to fly to Ngada and their answer was: ‘The flight is full.’”
He said blocking Merpati from landing at the airport would teach the airline a firm lesson.
“I had a meeting with the Ngada District Council [DPRD] to discuss development in Ngada, including airport facilities enjoyed by Merpati,” he said. “As district head, I forbid Merpati from landing at Turolelo Soa airport because as a state-owned company, Merpati did not support development in our region.”
Marianus blamed the problem on bad management.
“The district chief said that he had called Merpati airline but the flight was full,” Ministry of Transportation spokesman Bambang S. Ervan told Indonesian news portal Detik.com on Sunday. “The district chief then issued a threat and instructed public order agency [Satpol PP] officials to blockade the airport from Merpati flights.”
Merpati district manager Denny J. de Hoog confirmed that the airline could not land at the airport on Saturday.
“We had to turn back to El Tari airport in Kupang,” he said, adding that the flight in question was carrying 56 passengers.
Marianus had demanded a spot on a full flight, Denny said. Nevertheless, the airline eventually found him a seat, but when they called to confirm, Marianus said he had already booked a ticket with TransNusa, a private airline based in Kupang.
Marianus admitted that Merpati contacted him but that he decided to fly with TransNusa anyway.
Denny said Merpati would work with Marianus to settle the issue.
Airport officials said they could do nothing to end the blockade because they were outnumbered by the Satpol PP officials enforcing the district head’s wishes.
Donatus Mite, head of the air transportation division at the East Nusa Tenggara’s transportation office, said that flights resumed on Sunday
“Fights to Turolelo Soa airport have been opened again and flights are back to normal,” he said. “The closing was only on Saturday. Please don’t make it a big issue related to politics because it was just a miscommunication between Merpati and the district chief.”