As officials in Bali prepare to welcome heads of state and government from the world’s twenty biggest economies, the question has arisen about where VIP aircraft will be parked for the duration of the event. With some leaders bringing not one but three aircraft to Bali for their security teams and delegations, Bali airport will run at capacity for the week of the event.
While Bali has built a VVIP terminal especially to welcome world leaders for the G20 Summit and reduce the event’s impact on commercial travel, officials have to make plans to park aircraft off the island to create space for the whole logistical operation to run smoothly.
Despite speculation that some world leaders would boycott the event due to the confirmed attendance of other heads of state, it has been reported today that all twenty leaders and their delegations will attend the event on the 15th and 16th of November.
The security procedures and logistical operations are mammoth. World leaders like Joe Biden, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Emmanuel Macron, Cyril Ramaphosa, Olaf Scholz, Liz Truss, and Fumio Kishida will all be in Bali at one time. I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport has a lot to handle. The list of attendees is remarkable. The security operation for a visit from Indonesian President Joko Widodo alone involves massive logistical detailing.
Bali will also welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, has been overseeing the G20 Bali operation for the duration of the presidency. He has told reporters this week that aircraft parking space at Bali airport is limited and that a meeting must be held to establish a solution.
He explained to reporters in Jakarta that ‘I actually want a meeting. So we want to have a meeting about how to park the plane. Because there is a head of state, who brought three planes. Even though the ability of parking space there is also limited’. His solution is to operate a kind of drop-off policy for world leaders, and that some aircraft may have to conduct onward flights to be parked at airports on neighboring islands.
Pandjaitan explained, ‘So later…after [the pilot] drops the passengers, maybe we will put them in Lombok, in Surabaya, or in Banyuwangi’. According to Luhut, conversations remain underway with each delegation and security team regarding where aircraft can and will be parked.
Given the current geopolitical climate, it is unlikely that any security teams for world leaders would be best pleased with the idea of waiting for a government aircraft to return to Bali should a major incident happen and they needed to return home at a moment’s notice. Plans change in government in an instant. Liz Truss, for example, left a preliminary G20 event early in July to return to the UK to commence her bid as Conservative party leader.
The other issue I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport has to contend with during the G20 event is the increase in commercial flights. Pandjaitan told reporters, ‘Now the planes entering Bali have increased by 132 percent [since] two weeks ago’. Although provincial government leaders in Bali have been calling on the central government to work with airlines to increase flight availability to Bali, the move could cause issues in the coming weeks.
Across all levels of government, officials have been working around the clock to ensure that the G20 is a resounding success. Many are pinning a lot of hope on the event being the missing piece in the recovery of the tourism economy. The main conference will be held on the 15th and 16th of November, though there have been G20 meetings, workshops, and working group events held in Bali throughout the year, all of which have been reported as a success; a positive sign indeed for the upcoming summit.
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