Batavia, Merpati, Batavia, Merpati?
You should fly Batavia sometimes. Its good for the country.
The price of flights between Dili and Denpasar matter not one iota to most people in Timor-Leste. 80% of Timorese live in the mountains where a flight to Indonesia is either a once a year (or once a lifetime) act, or something beyond comprehension.
However, there is a price war going on between Batavia and Merpati. Stories of $60 one-way flights abound. Daily changes in prices seem common place. The fact is that Batavia and Merpati are slugging it out, in no uncertain terms. Here is a media piece in Tetun. But ongoing warfare between Batavia and Merpati is not good, peaceful yet competitive coexistence is best for the companies and for the consumers.
The Dili-Denpasar route has long been Merpati’s most profitable and Batavia’s entry into the market was not a welcome development for Merpati. However, it was very welcome to Timor-Leste’s “chattering classes”, both foreign and domestic. Merpati has for many years been ripping people off. Then again they had a monopoly, and in some ways understandably exploited it. Despite shoddy service, ancient planes, and some horrendously hard landings they kept the prices up and laughed all the way to the bank.
But its not all bad news with Merpati – had they not been flying at all, there would have been no air link with Indonesia – not good. Also remember that during the crisis in 2006 Merpati kept on flying.
So if you want to do the right thing and further encourage the competitive spirit in Timor-Leste fly Batavia once in a while. It will help keep prices down, drive further performance improvements both with Merpati and Batavia. It takes two to tango and if either one cave in and go home, we end up with one operator again, and a return to high prices and bad service.
I always use Antika Travel in Dili for booking tickets. I found out a few days ago that they cannot, or will not, book tickets on Batavia. Seems slightly anti-compettive to me. It also seems odd given that Batavia has an EU safety certification, something that travel agents could use to drive ticket sales if they got their act together. Unless they change their ways I am going elsewhere.
So who is this all for? Its for the the future of Timor-Leste as it moves into the 21st century, when hopefully more than a handful can afford to fly. More movement of more people is good for the country. It improves educational, social, economic and political links with the outside world, and will have positive impact back at home, in the mountains of Timor-Leste.
Fly Batavia, fly Merpati, fly Batavia, fly Merpati. Test them out.
Dili Air Services are Batavia’s locally based partners: find them here.