Safety, Security in Aviation

The aviation business is capital intensive, involving a huge investment and involving leasing and insurance companies. “Unless we have a good safety record, how can our financial sources and insurance companies trust us? Safety is a very important point for an LCC company to be able to be cost-efficient.”

Security plays such an important role that AirAsia is intensively plugging its “safety and security” campaign, with the security of online ticket purchases being guaranteed by Secure Online Transaction of Thawte Secure Socket, which Visa and MasterCard SecureCode verify, to limiting hand luggage to a maximum of seven kilos.

In addition, the AirAsia fleet has periodical maintenance checks, just like a human being in need of a spa. In aviation, this “spa” for an aircraft is technically known as A Check and C Check. AirAsia aircraft must enter the hangar after flying for 500 hours. Likewise, periodical maintenance is conducted for every 250 hours up to 2,000 hours. After the A Check is completed, an aircraft undergoes the C Check, which is conducted every 4000 hours of flight up to 24,000 hours. Finally there is the D Check (32,000 hours), which is an overhaul. After the D Check, the maintenance schedule starts from the beginning again.

When all these regulations are implemented, the risk of an air accident is minimized. Even old airplanes, which are 10 to 20 years old, can still be flown if the correct procedure and standard of maintenance are kept. What distinguishes a new airplane and an old one is that the latter consumes more fuel.

AirAsia, which was also named Asia’s best LCC airline in 2007 in the London’s Skytrax version, is not the only airline whose aircraft undergoes regular maintenance. The engines of aircraft belonging to other airlines periodically undergo maintenance, although, with the exception of daily maintenance, this work is outsourced. Lion Air, for example, has a contract with Benhar of the Indonesian Air Force in Bandung for the maintenance of its MD-82/90s.

Bouraq, Batavia Air and Sriwijaya Air use the services of Aircraft Services (ACS) of PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) for maintenance on their Boeing-737 aircraft. ACS-PT Dirgantara has undertaken maintenance work for Boeing-737s since 2004.

In the aviation business, the maintenance of commercial aircraft accounts for 30 to 40 percent of total costs. Proper aircraft maintenance to ensure flight safety may be expensive, but it would be more costly if there were an air accident. An air accident invariably claims lives, destroys or damages the aircraft, requires compensation payments and may lead to a lawsuit. It also may damage the reputation of the airline and even the credibility of the government.

If a lot of attention must be paid to safety and security — the two issues that require a huge amount of funds to maintain — how can airlines adopting the LCC concept, including AirAsia, cut costs?

Widijastoro said there are many ways to cut costs when an LCC concept is adopted. An airline, he said, may use one aircraft type only, which means reducing training and servicing costs. And greater attention is also paid to direct sales, particularly by making use of the Internet. In this way, travel agents’ fees and commission can be avoided. Another measure is to do away with ticket issuance. “Just imagine how much money is spent printing one ticket. It costs $1, or US$10 in the case of tickets for foreign routes,” he said.

Therefore, if there is an assumption that air accidents have occurred because of irregularities in the management of an aviation company by means of cutting operating costs through the reduction of aircraft maintenance costs, this assumption obviously shows that such practices deviate from the LCC concept itself. Low-cost air tickets do not necessarily mean that an airline sacrifices the safety of its passengers. (Burhan Abe)

The Jakarta Post, September 20, 2007

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