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Garuda, Lion Air go on Boeing shopping spree in Singapore

Two of the country's most prominent airlines ordered dozens of new Boeing airplanes worth about US$6.7 billion in total during the first day of the Singapore Air show on Tuesday. State-owned Garuda Indonesia ordered 10 Boeing 777-300ERs (extended range) airplanes worth $2.3 billion while low-cost airline Lion Air acquired 56 Boeing 737-900ERs worth about $4.4 billion.

"It is part of our renewal and expansion program, and also to fulfill our customers' need for sophisticated airline service," Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar told a press conference in Singapore. The Boeing 777-300ER can fly up to 15 hours nonstop and accommodate up to 365 passengers, making it one of the best airplanes for long-range travel, Emirsyah said. Funds for purchasing the 777-300ERs, he said, would come from airline lessors and banks, adding to the companies existing $700 million debt.

Garuda managed to secure Rp 259 billion (about $28.27 million) in profit last year, a remarkable comeback following Rp 197 billion in losses in 2006. Meanwhile, its revenue in 2007 was $1.04 billion, a 16 percent increase from $896 billion in the previous year.

Emirsyah said that following the order, Garuda was planning to open new routes to European and United States cities, amid a push to lift a European ban imposed since last year on all Indonesian airlines over safety fears after deadly crashes.

"The first delivery of the airplane will be in 2010. And we are prioritizing Amsterdam (in the Netherlands) as our first new destination," he said. A Garuda jet burst into flames in March last year on landing in Central Java, killing 21 people, and an Adam Air plane plunged into the sea off Indonesia's Sulawesi island on New Year's Day in 2007, killing all 102 people on board.

Meanwhile, according to AFP, Lion Air said purchasing an additional 50 of the 737900ERs would its fleet of the plane to 178 in total, and Boeing said it was now the world's largest operator of the plane.

"Lion Air is committed to growing its fleet with fuel-efficient, reliable and technologically advanced aircraft, while offering its passengers the best service and lowest fares on the market," said Lion Air founder Rusdi Grana. Also present at the Singapore Airshow was Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Jamal, who said he expected the European countries to acknowledge the efforts of Indonesian airlines in improving safety. "I expect the European Union will lift the ban soon," Jusman said.

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