When delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum arrive in Bali for their meetings next month, they will be ushered into a new-look airport with cavernous halls filled with Balinese paintings facing glass panels that let in more light than the old terminal.

Before they land, they may spot the wavy blue roof, representing the ocean, of the new international terminal and the tiered green roof, representing the island’s famed padi fields, of the multi-storey carpark. This is the result of a 3 trillion rupiah (US$264 million) revamp of the old airport, which had not been renovated for more than a decade.

“The main driver of this airport facelift is the extreme lack of capacity we are facing,” Yuristo Hardi Anggoro, spokesman for airport operator Angkasa Pura I (API), told The Straits Times.

The old airport served 14 million passengers last year, twice its stated capacity, but the rebuilt one can handle up to 25 million passengers annually. It is equipped with speedier baggage checking facilities and contains a transit hotel with 224 rooms. The new terminal will welcome its first international passengers at the end of this month.

The upgrading of Bali’s airport, the country’s third-busiest, is part of the Ministry of Transportation’s countrywide airport revitalisation programme that will see 45 airports replaced or revamped in the next decade. The government will spend a total of US$53 billion to upgrade transport infrastructure, including airports, roads, ports and rail links.

Most Indonesian airports are running at overcapacity, following years of robust growth that has made the country’s 240 million people more affluent and more able to afford flying — the most practical way of travelling across this archipelago of 17,000 islands.

Last year, 72.5 million domestic passengers flew over Indonesian skies, up from 60.2 million in 2011, said a Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa) report. This figure is double that in 2008.

But infrastructure has not kept pace with this thirst for flying, leading to a host of problems, from pilot shortage to overcrowding and long queues for airliners at airports which make delayed landings and take-offs common.

Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport, ranked ninth-busiest globally last year, handled 56 million passengers that same year, nearly triple its present capacity of 22 million. An 11.7 trillion rupiah expansion project is under way to build more hangars, a fourth terminal and a third runway and to revamp existing terminals.

Medan’s new sprawling airport was built in the outskirts of the city after the 85-year-old Polonia Airport strained to serve double the capacity it was designed for.

Completed in July and linked to the city by rail, it can handle 8 million passengers yearly.

Bali’s revamped airport will be connected directly to the tourist districts of Benoa, Nusa Dua and Kuta via a 13km toll road built over the sea to avoid traffic jams on normal roads.

However, observers have flagged potential problems in the revitalisation programme.

API’s data shows the number of flights to Bali increased 9.7 per cent from 2011 to 2012 and passenger volume rose by 15.6 per cent at the same time.

Flight numbers are predicted to jump to 131,682 next year from 113,639 last year, and passenger volume from 14 million last year to nearly 17 million by the end of next year. That figure is expected to exceed 70 million by 2030.

Capa’s chief analyst Brendan Sobie told The Straits Times: “Indonesia is well behind the growth curve. About three-quarters of the major airports are already operating above capacity.

“The projects that are on the drawing board need to be accelerated and in some cases expanded.”

(c)2013 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by MCT Information Services.