Dili in Timor Leste has got its direct service to Singapore back after a half year hiatus. And the new service is quite out of left field. Timor Leste’s small capital has struggled to attact international services into its airport (DIL).
The strategically important link between Dili and Singapore has operated on an on again off again basis since the nation gained independence from Indonesia in 2002.
But a deal between local travel company Air Timor and Singapore Airlines lapsed in March 2019, leaving the grandly named Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport at Dili without a service to Singapore.
Now Air Timor has found a new partner – Bhutan’s Druk Air.
Druk Air operates a fleet of three A319-100s. They buzz around their part of the world – to Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Singapore and Thailand. They have a fourth aircraft due soon, an A320neo. This will enable the airline to stretch its wings further afield to the Dubai and Japan in September 2020.
Druk Air is based at Paro Airport (PBH). Haven’t been there? Neither have I. But it is a very difficult airport to land at. The airport is in a deep mountain valley some 2,235 metres above sea level and is surrounded by high Himalayan mountains. Only a select number of pilots are certified to use the airport and flight operations are restricted to daylight hours.
Which means Druk Air’s Airbuses are underutilised and have some significant down time at Singapore when it becomes too dark to head back to Paro.
So why not use that down time to fly to Dili? Why not indeed.
Air Timor, which sounds like an airline but is actually a Dili based travel company with no aircraft of its own has made a deal with Druk Air to operate two return flights a week between Singapore and Dili. The flights will be operated by Druk Air crew on Druk Air A319-100 aircraft using Druk Air (KB) flight numbers and start from 31 October 2019.
The Singapore – Dili – Singapore timetable effective 31 October 2019 is as follows:
|Dep Singapore (SIN)||KB900||Thu, Sat||03:00|
|Arr Dili (DIL)||07:45|
|Dep DIL (DIL)||KB901||Thu, Sat||08:25|
|Arr Singapore (SIN)||10:55|
A little background on Timor Leste
Timor Leste has approximately 1.3 million people. About 250,000 of these people live in and around Dili. But the nation is relatively impoverished and undeveloped, despite some promising natural resources. It has always struggled to maintain decent air links.
Singapore Airlines, via its subsidiary Silk Air, has operated services into Dili and worked with Air Timor before over the years. But as noted, Singapore Airlines vacated the field in March.
Airnorth flies in from Darwin in Australia’s Northern Territory most days. Indonesia’s Citilink, Sriwijaya, and Nam Air all fly in from Bali, and Transnusa operates a ATR-72 service to Kupang in West Timor on behalf of Air Timor.
The joint venture between Druk Air and Air Timor is valid for one year. I love that some tiny minons in the aviation world are having a crack at this. Big regional players like Garuda, Qantas, Malaysia and Singapore aren’t interested. But little Druk Air and little Air Timor are having a go. Good luck to them. I really hope it works out.
Timor Leste is on my travel horizon in mid 2020 (first time). I’m a Druk Air virgin too. Potential to kill two birds with one stone here.
Timor Leste deserves decent air links and both Druk Air and Air Timor deserve kudos for having a go.
If you are feeling adventurous, bookings can be made via the Air Timor website.