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Politics

Garuda to restart US flights as FAA clears Indonesia carriers

Garuda Indonesia plans to resume service to the U.S. next year now that the FAA has given the country's airlines the green light.

JAKARTA -- Flag carrier Garuda Indonesia says it will resume flights to the U.S. next year now that the aviation authority there has removed its ban on Indonesian airlines from entering the country.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Monday morning notified Indonesia's Transportation Ministry that the Southeast Asian country's aviation safety status had been upgraded from Category 2 to Category 1.

"This means we have complied with the international aviation safety standards according to the U.S.," Indonesia's director general for air transport, Suprasetyo, told to the press.

"From today on, all Indonesian airlines can fly to the U.S.," the official said.

Category 1 status was granted following an assessment that was completed in March. The assessment targeted not only airlines but also the local aviation authority and local regulations.

The FAA downgraded Indonesia's status to Category 2 in 2007 -- essentially banning flights to the U.S. -- following a series of crashes involving Indonesian airlines, including Garuda.

Garuda, which had service to Los Angeles in the 1990s, said it is preparing to resume flights to that city, or possibly New York, in the first half of next year.

"We're welcoming this status upgrade," said Garuda spokesman Benny Butarbutar. "We're still doing calculations, though; we'll choose between New York and Los Angeles."

He added that the airline would use its Boeing 777 aircraft for the new flights.

Suprasetyo said other Indonesian airlines also have expressed interest in flying to the U.S., though he stopped short of naming them.

The U.S. announcement comes two months after the European Union removed three Indonesian airlines from its air-safety blacklist: Garuda's low-cost unit, Citilink, Indonesia's largest private carrier, Lion Air, and its premium unit, Batik Air.

Garuda had earlier been removed from the list in 2009, after a two-year ban on entering EU airspace.

While the FAA's Category 1 status applies to all Indonesian airlines, the EU's rulings apply to individual carriers.

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