Jakarta. President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo appointed Rusdi Kirana, the founder of Indonesia largest budget airline Lion Air, as ambassador for Malaysia on Thursday (18/05).
Rusdi, which previously sat as a member on the presidential advisory council, will use his experience to deal with issues concerning migrant workers and other cross border issues that Indonesia often has with Malaysia. The appointment also came as Lion Air has announced plans to rebrand its subsidiary in Malaysia, to expand Lion Air's overseas operations.
Still, Rusdi claimed he has relinquished all of his responsibilities at Lion Air to its board of directors. "It's been like that since a long time ago. Today, our directors are running [the airline]. I am not in the office anymore, " Rusdi said, after the appointment ceremony at the State Palace on Thursday.
He stepped down as Lion Air's chief executive in 2015 after his appointment to the advisory council and was replaced by Edward Sirait.
Rusdi, however, said he specifically requested the Malaysian ambassador post from President Jokowi. Rusdi, who was a deputy chairman of the Islamic political party National Awakening Party (PKB), secured the position after undergoing a series of fit and proper tests conducted by members of the House of Representatives.
"I was never offered another state ambassador. But, I asked the president especially for Malaysia," Rusdi said.
Lion Air has been aggressively expanding in Malaysia, the home turf of its biggest rival AirAsia. The group said earlier this year that it would rebrand its local subsidiary Malindo Airlines as Batik Air Malaysia early this year.
The group said in a statement that Batik Air Malaysia "would primarily focus on international routes with its Indonesian sibling Batik Airways providing it with regional feeder traffic. Together, the two airlines would not only enjoy enhanced economies of scale, but also lower unit costs."
On Tuesday, the Malaysian unit received the first Boeing 737 Max single-aisle passenger jet airplane, which would give the airline a competitive edge against rivals as the jet is able to save 14 percent fuel compared to the jet's predecessors.
Rusdi was appointed along with Ferry Adamhar who was appointed as ambassador to Greece and Arto Suryodipuro as ambassador to India and Bhutan.
Also Rina Soemarno was appointed as ambassador to Bangladesh Nepal, together with Wieke Adiwoso for Slovakia, and Radar Pardede for Tanzania and Burundi, Comoros and Rwanda.