IF YOU’RE a frequent air traveler, you’re probably familiar with Garuda Indonesia. It’s so popular that many people think it was the first airline in Indonesia. In fact, the title of the first airline in Indonesia is actually pinned to another company.

Before Garuda Indonesia took to the air, Indonesia already had one airline in operation, Indonesian Airways. This airline was the first commercial airline in the country. Even so, Indonesian Airways did not operate much in Indonesia, but was centered in Burma, which is now known as Myanmar.

Reporting from the official Garuda Indonesia website, Indonesia’s first civilian flight took place using an airplane named “Indonesian Airways”. The flight was an initiative of the Indonesian Air Force (AURI) to rent aircraft from the Burmese government on January 26, 1949.

After the Indonesian Government and the Dutch Government agreed to the Round Table Conference (RTC) in 1949, the role of Indonesian Airways ended. The entire crew and aircraft were only able to return to Indonesia in 1950. Upon arrival in Indonesia, all aircraft and their functions were returned to the AURI into the formation of the Military Air Transport Service.

The RTC agreement mandates that the Netherlands must hand over all assets of the Dutch East Indies government to the government of the Republic of Indonesia (RIS), including the Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij-Inter-Insulair Bedrijf (KLM-IIB) airline. KLM-IIB is a subsidiary of KLM after taking over the private airline Koninklijke Nederlandshindische Luchtvaart Maatschappij (K.N.I.L.M) which had been established since 1928.

On December 21, 1949, the Indonesian government and KLM held further negotiations on the establishment of a national airline. President Sukarno chose and decided on “Garuda Indonesian Airways” (GIA) as the name of the airline. However, KLM was willing to temporarily place its staff on duty and train Indonesian air staff.

The day after the recognition of the Republic of Indonesia’s sovereignty by the Netherlands, on December 28, 1949, two Dakota (DC-3) aircraft departed Kemayoran Airport, Jakarta, for Yogyakarta to pick up Sukarno and mark the move of the Indonesian capital from Yogyakarta to Jakarta. From then on, GIA continued to grow until it became known today as Garuda Indonesia.

One year later, Garuda Indonesia became a state-owned company. During this period, Garuda Indonesia operated a fleet of 38 aircraft consisting of 22 DC-3s, 8 Catalina flying boats and 8 Convair 240s. Garuda Indonesia’s fleet continued to grow and finally managed to carry out the first flight carrying pilgrims from Indonesia to Mecca in 1956. [sources/photo special]