JAKARTA, Indonesia_Saudi Arabia is considering banning Indonesian airlines from its airspace, but is first reviewing the flight safety record of the world's most populous Muslim country, officials said Tuesday.
Dozens of airlines certified in Indonesia were blocked recently from flying to the European Union following a string of accidents, which also prompted the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority to downgrade the country's rating to its lowest category.
Saudi Arabia - which welcomes more than 160,000 Indonesian air travelers annually for the religious pilgrimage to Mecca - usually follows the lead of the EU, said Indonesian Transportation Minister Jusman Syafi'ie Djamal.
"But this time they want clarification," he said, adding that officials want to hear directly about safety standards at Indonesia's flag-carrier Garuda, which flies to Saudi Arabia eight times a week. "We will meet with Saudi Arabian authorities soon."
On New Year's Day a jetliner operated by Indonesia's Adam Air plunged into the sea from 10,000 meters (33,000 feet), killing all 102 people on board. Weeks later, another Adam Air plane's fuselage cracked after a hard landing. And in March, a Boeing 737 operated by Garuda careered off a runway and burst into flames, leaving 21 dead.
Garuda is the only Indonesian airline to fly to Saudi Arabia. The flag-carrier's director of operations, Ari Sapari, said he was confident that flights between the two countries would not be banned.
"We have deep and good ties with Saudi Arabia," he said. "I do not think they will follow the EU's decision."
The Boeing 737-400 was built in 1992 and would have exceeded the 10-year age limit the Government has talked about placing on jetliners operated by local carriers.
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