Pressure is mounting on the country's largest low-cost carrier, Lion Air, to improve its management following widespread delays after its pilots went on strike. Calls for action came from various stakeholders, including passengers that faced delays of more than two hours on Tuesday.
Herawati Ramdhani, 46, expressed disappointment with the airline after arriving at her home in Ciputat, South Tangerang, at 9:50 p.m. She said she was supposed to leave Denpasar, Bali, at around 2:30 p.m., but the flight only departed at around 6:45 p.m.
"I am disappointed and upset with the delay, but I somehow believe the pilots have strong arguments for striking. There must be something wrong within the company," said Hera.
On Tuesday morning, more than 300 Lion Air pilots went on strike, claiming the company had not paid their accommodation allowance, which should have been paid between May 4 and May 9.
At 11 a.m., the pilots eventually agreed to fly after the management had transferred their accommodation allowance, but delayed morning flights resulted in prolonged delays in the afternoon.
Hera urged the Transportation Ministry to evaluate Lion Air and impose a penalty due to its poor service.
Meanwhile, Tulus Abadi from the Indonesian Consumer Foundation (YLKI) also called on the Transportation Ministry to stop allowing Lion Air to add new routes and flights and expand its fleet, pending a thorough audit on the company’s management.
A Lion Air pilot who refused to be named said the government should intervene in the company's management.
"We are tired of the management that keeps violating our rights,” he said.
Aside from the late payment of accommodation allowance, pilots also complained about a chaotic flight schedule that forced them to work longer hours and have shorter rest times.
"Sufficient resting time is essential for pilots to avoid fatigue," he said, adding that the pilots threatened to go on with the strike should Lion Air fail to heed their demands.
Lion Air director Edward Sirait, meanwhile, explained in a press statement that the delays had occurred because some crew members were sick and others were having administrative problems.
Lion Air is owned by Rusdi Kirana, Indonesia’s 12th richest person according to Forbes. Businessman-cum-politician Rusdi currently serves as deputy chairman of the National Awakening Party, which is part of the coalition that supports President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s administration.
Last year, the company made headlines after more than 2,000 passengers were left stranded from Feb. 18 to 20 at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.