With a few weeks in Indonesia – a rich mixture of culture, history and food, I was definitely excited to club it with aviation and exploring over the weekends. This meant flying many airlines along with aircraft sub-types.
Indonesia is a market as crazy as India, with the Lion air group dominating the scene with its two pronged strategy of Lion Air and Batik Air, supported by Wings Air.
Indonesian carriers and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) do not accept Indian Credit Cards and many also don’t accept the International pre-paid cards.
Research & Booking
The first flight was to be on Batik Air between Jakarta & Yogyakarta. Batik Air is the full service arm of Lion Group. The airline which started in 2013 has a fleet of 49 aircraft comprising 35 A320s, 8 B737-800s and 6 B737-900ER, all of which are in two class configuration with 12 seats in Business class and variable ones in Economy. The airline provides free baggage allowance of 20 kg in economy and has a seat pitch of 32 inches for economy class.
The tickets from Traveloka – booked from their very user friendly app was in the inbox in no time but the Batik Air website had a non-functional View Reservation section. The website also doesn’t have a seat selection feature and check-in opened 24 hours to departure.
Check-in was easy, with many seats open for selection around 20 hours to departure. I selected a window seat behind the wings to get a good view during take-off and landing.
The Soekarno – Hatta International Airport at Jakarta now has three terminals – 1A/B/C, 2D/E/F and Terminal 3 which exclusively serves Garuda Indonesia and will soon see other partner airlines shift there. The recently built glass façade structure outshines the old terminal which became operational in the 1980s. The airport has two parallel runways which are 3600 mtr in length with orientation 07/25.
The airport is shaped like a spanning fan with main entrances of terminals connected to a series of waiting and boarding areas which are separate units in itself. These areas allow for boarding via aerobridge as well as bus boarding. There are gardens between these separate boarding units which comprise of 7 gates on an average. The architecture and design is Javanese as per the airport information desk.
My flight was from Terminal 1C, the oldest block currently in operation. The airport is well connected with local bus, app based taxi and radio taxi operators. There is a rail link planned to be opened late this year or early next year.
Long queue welcomed me at the terminal entrance. The security staff worked efficiently to get people in. The bottleneck was the security and X-ray machine right at the entry. This part of the terminal had counters of Citilink and Batik Air and all were overflowing. Thankfully a Batik Air staff was around who confirmed that I need not go to the counter and head directly to the gates.
The large food court and retail area has many options for food and shopping before one heads to the security again – which is more detailed than the one done at the entrance. Different alleys lead you to the gates, which are again connected with each other. Each gate has a food stall and a mobile charging station along with a rack of magazines – all of which were in Bahasa.
The view is hindered by the design of the façade and there goes the opportunity to spot some rare aircraft. My Network Planning skills had predicted PK-LUU as the aircraft to take me to Yogyakarta but the aircraft arrived and docked at gate C4. On the ramp, some distance away, the Lion Air B737 in Boeing livery was undergoing maintenance while rare aircraft type like MD083 were parked around.
Gate C6 remained empty and my prediction about the aircraft came out to be true as an announcement of gate change was made. The FIDS did not reflect this change and the announcement was only in Bahasa, so I confirmed with the staff if what I heard and understood was exactly what they had announced. It was!
As I stood in the boarding line, it looked like a full flight. The aircraft looked beautiful in the Batik Air livery and was smelling fresh as I entered the plane from the aerobridge. The two class configuration has 3 rows of 2×2 Business Class seats, followed by the economy class. Spotlessly clean interiors along with comfortable and clean seats was a good beginning.
Boarding was over quickly and we pushed back 5 minutes ahead of time. While the airline claims to have In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) on its aircraft, this new aircraft did not have one. The seats had a place holder for the IFE screen but replaced with plastic.
Inflight magazine, Safety card and another card which had prayers of multiple faith were placed in the seat back pocket.
The crew demonstrated the safety demo we taxied to runway 25L and were in queue for take-off for about 10 minutes or so. The flight was full in Economy and half the seats in Business class were already occupied when I boarded.
Flight Routing & Arrival Experience
The aircraft banked left, flew over Jakarta to set course towards Yogyakarta, overflying the hill station of Bandung on the way. There were a few announcements in Bahasa and a few in English as well. The most important one was regarding food. Yes, it will be served.
About 15 minutes post take-off, the food cart rolled in with a bun (Roti ) being handed out to each passenger along with a bottle of water. The strawberry filled bun was tasty but very sweet to my liking. The pilot announced on PA that we would soon start our descend and should be on ground at 0900 local time for an on-time arrival.
We were soon covered with clouds and went into holding pattern for a very long. For the next 20 minutes we were holding for reasons unknown, going all the way up to the southern coast where the visibility improved and I could see the shore. Further descend started after this and we made a smooth landing on runway 09 at Adisutjipto International Airport, Yogyakarta. It was a great experience. Steady approach, flaps deployed, Spoilers in use and a smooth touchdown.
We parked next to a Wings Air ATR72-600 on one side and B737-900ER of Lion Air on another. It looked like one Lion Group family, as AirAsia Indonesia A320 taxied out and Express Air B737-300 was awaiting pushback. The quaint terminal building welcomed us and the first thing one sees as you enter is the tourism information stall who were very helpful in information about public transportation. With no baggage to collect, quickly moved out towards the bus stop to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Prambanan.
I was impressed with the Batik Air experience. On time departure, Spotlessly clean aircraft, efficient service and a smooth flight. All parameters checked. The price I paid for the ticket was marginally higher than a competing Low Cost Carrier flight at similar time of the day.
Aircraft: PK-LUU (Delivered in May’17)