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An Indonesian politician couldn’t get on a full flight, so he closed the airport

Reuters image
A Merpati Nusantara plane
By Newley Purnell
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Marianus Sae, a district chief from the Indonesian island of Flores, found himself in a tight spot last weekend. He was visiting another city but couldn’t get a seat on a fully booked flight home for a budget meeting. His solution: call his hometown airport and order security officers to block the runway with their cars, preventing the Merpati Nusantara Airlines plane from landing, and forcing its return.

“It is outrageous,” an unrepentant Sae told the Jakarta Globe. ”I begged for a ticket for five hours to fly to Ngada and their answer was: ‘The flight is full.'” In another interview, he said, “The airline has hampered my state duty as the government official, it should be a lesson for its management.”

After a public outcry, the country’s transport ministry said Sae’s move was unlawful, and that the matter had been resolved—but that the it had no plans to take legal action.

That will come as little surprise to most Indonesians, where corruption and abuse of power are common complaints. The country sits at 114th out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index. Last year 88% of Indonesians polled said government corruption was widespread; in October, the chief judge of the country’s Constitutional Court was arrested for allegedly taking a bribe in return for a favorable verdict. Moreover, Sae’s act is just another worry for those who travel on Indonesian airlines, which are struggling to deal with a surge in passengers and several recent fatal crashes.

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