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Timor-Leste Air Warz Redux

Well here at PDT we are turning into something of plane spotters.  We have blogged a bit on the nascent airline business in Timor-Leste December 2010, and February 2011.

The long long awaited Timor Air has apparently arrived – and is about to start flying the Dili-Darwin-Dili route, starting just 72 hours from now.  Booming air travel is often the sign of a growing economy – just as airlines are often the first to feel the pinch in hard times.  In Timor-Leste these days its all about more planes not less.

Air Timor Website (

After getting the word via Twitter that the Vincent Aviation website had announced a new route in partnership with Timor Air I had a look and its – well – true.  And here is the beauty of competition, seems you can get tickets at 50% the price of Air North. Try $269 versus $500.

Vincent Aviation (

One has to wonder if we will see a replay of the Merpati – Batavia struggle earlier this year.  Batavia gave Merpati a run for its money. However, Merpati, with deeper pockets buried Batavia. Batavia had to go from daily schedules to just twice a week.  But it has kept prices down somewhat.

Mind you many people are in an “I hate Merpati mood these days”.

Three days ago the plane was three hours late, yesterday it did not come at all, and today it was a no show as well, but apparently (according to this tweep) they are going to borrow a Batavia plane….?!

Having said all that the local media is having a field day.  Online media outlet CJITL published a story this afternoon saying “Merpati are liars, passengers ask the Government to cancel Merpati in Timor-Leste.”  They have some very juicy quotes from the national Provedor, and the the head of the Anti-Corruption Commission – among the stranded passengers.  Anyway that is the chattering classes of Dili for you.  Some of my friends in a far away place called Passabe can only watch the high altitude vapor trails.

Three days ago I had the pleasure of flying very late on what can only be described as a Merpati “clunker” from Denpasar to Dili. Take note of the peeling paint all over the front end of this 18th century era B737.

The Clunker

Then if you look very closely you will see the top starboard rear window seems, well how to say it? Cracked up…  I especially like the guy on his mobile phone sitting next to the nose landing gear.  Isn’t there an urban myth about a problem with mobile phone signals and aviation fuel in close proximity?

Safety standards notwithstanding - we fly every day - except for the ones we don't.

In any event we now have Merpati, and Batavia, on the Dili-Denpasar run.

Air Timor has a lock on the Dili-Singapore jaunt.

Meanwhile Timor Air and Air North are poised to knock heads on the Dili-Darwin puddle jump.

Apparently pretty soon Timor-Leste Airways plans to offer flights to SIX destinations (Macau, Jakarta, Surabaya, Perth, Kupang and Denpasar).

As I post this blog Merpati mania continues at the airport.

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  1. ann turner says:

    update: Batavia stepped into the breach on Sunday and took some passengers Dili-Bali. Later Sunday, the “missing” Merpati aircraft showed up and it, too made the run. No details have emerged as to what, exactly the problem was.

  2. Loron Triste says:

    We hate Merpati AND Denpasar airport (particularly the fact you cannot transit DIL – DPS – XXX when going on to a third international destination). It is almost as bad as Dili.

    Merpati’s food is awful, the seats have got closer together, the planes are frequently delayed or cancelled with no reimbursement of lost fares or hotel bookings, the planes are getting older (we noticed the paint, cracks and scratches too) and the landings are hard. Not wanting to put people off, but you really don’t want to be in an air crash at Nicolau Lobato airport.

  3. Ken Westmoreland says:

    Timor Leste’s nascent airline industry reminds me of the film Monty Python’s Life of Brian, where the rival factions (Judean People’s Front, People’s Front of Judea and Judean People’s Popular Front) are too busy fighting each other to fight against the common enemy, the Romans.

    Q: Are you Timor Air?
    A: **** off! We’re Air Timor! Timor Air! Pah! Splitters! The only people we hate more than Merpati, are Timor Leste Airlines!

    Batavia could operate direct non-stop direct flights to Jakarta from Dili, or better still, flights to Singapore via Jakarta. Bali is a cul-de-sac, and while it might be a nice place to visit, people should be forced to spend a night there if they don’t want to. Come to think of it, why not Garuda instead of Merpati or Batavia, given that Merpati and Batavia are largely domestic airlines? It’s Timor Leste now, guys, not Timor Timur!

    Indonesia, unlike many other countries, is resistant to Open Skies agreements, which could open up the possibility of airlines flying to Dili via cities in Indonesia from elsewhere. Qatar Airways has Airbus A319LRs, which are small enough to land in Dili, but long range enough to fly to Doha via Denpasar.

    Baucau airport is a shamefuly neglected resource, which could help bring tourism to the eastern regions – if it was good enough back in the days when Dili was a day’s drive away, why not now, when it’s ‘only’ three hours away? Timor Leste is not too small for two international airports – the Maldives is now opening up Gan airport in addition to Male – you can fly to Gan from Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing.

    Even in the much-maligned Portuguese era, there were domestic flights, not to mention weekly flights betwen Diki and Kupang, and even charter flights operated by the Portuguese air force between Baucau and Lisbon!

    If I can avoid flying Merpati, I will, although I wouldn’t recommend doing what I once did, which was to fly to Kupang and bus it to Dili and back. Fascinating trip, but no great savings, and not one I will do again.

  4. Edward Rees says:


    Thanks a lot for the information response. Monty Python indeed.

    PDT TL

  5. Al Sweetman says:


    To the tune of ‘it’s my party… and i’ll cry if I want to’.. ‘it’s Merpati and you’ll die if they want you to’……….. Ah the memories (of sheer terror).


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