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Indonesia forum

Flying in Indonesia

Posted by somtam2000 on 14/9/2015 at 22:10 admin

I travel a lot in Indonesia and nothing scares me like flying. We've lost friends there to plane crashes and I do try to fly domestically as little as possible, especially with the family. This story very neatly illustrates why.

The fixation with glitzy terminals over safety features and training is absolutely maddening. The Pontianak example given in the story is SO Indonesia.

#1 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,061

Posted by exacto on 14/9/2015 at 23:13

I could only read the first paragraph of the linked story, as it required a sign in otherwise - at least from here in the states. It may be different elsewhere.
We took two different domestic flights during our trip to Indonesia last year - one on Air Asia from Bali to Yogya, and the other on Lion Air from Yogya to Lombok. I remember being reasonably impressed with the quality and comfort of the flights, particularly as for what we paid on Lion Air, we expected something less shiny. But I also saw Lion Air listed as one of the least safe airlines in a recent Yahoo article on air safety.
Of the scary number of recent crashes in Indonesia lately, wasn't one an Air Asia flight to Malaysia? Would you consider that a domestic or an international type flight?
Anyway, I know savorygal recommends flying from Lombok to Bali rather than taking the fast boats, and I remember thinking that the fast boat we took from Gili Air back to Bali didn't seem like a very safe option either. Do you think those domestic flights you mention are even less safe than the other options of getting around in Indonesia? Regards.

#2 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,808

Posted by somtam2000 on 14/9/2015 at 23:27 admin

Ahhh sorry I forgot about the paywall. If you google the title "Weak Link in Asia’s Flight Boom: Airports" and click on the result in the search results, you should get the story for free.

LionAir isn't a great airline - but sometimes they're the only carrier that flies to places I need to get to. I'm flying AirAsia tomorrow back to Indonesia - five hours of flying vs three/four days (at least) of overland travel...

I don't get the fast boats to Gilis - I take slow ferry from Padangbai to Lembar.


#3 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,061

Posted by exacto on 14/9/2015 at 23:43

I took the slow boat to/from Lombok back in 1999. Lombok seemed so much more exotic back then.
Anyway, as I recall, the slow boats don't have a spotless safety record either, and from the look of the hulls in Padangbai harbor, it didn't seem like the boats had been updated much (or painted or cleaned) since 1999.
Still, slow boat would have been my choice last year, as it is more "old school", but I was out voted. But I think after the fast boat experience, my travel mates would have been sold on the slow boat for a follow on trip.
I guess travel anywhere is dangerous, and the best we can do is make informed decisions to manage the risk. I don't want to be reckless, but I also hate the idea of not going anywhere because of those small (but very real) chances of an accident.

#4 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,808

Posted by sambalgoreng on 16/9/2015 at 04:53

You need to read so-called "experts" in the other travel forum think of the public ferry from Bali to Lombok or any LCC operating in Indonesia. LOL

#5 sambalgoreng has been a member since 25/9/2014. Posts: 32

Posted by mooball on 16/9/2015 at 08:01 TF writer

Planes in Indo don't scare me so much. The buses sometimes do. Indonesian road toll is 45,000 deaths per year. And while many more people are on the roads, surely it would be safer to fly from Bali to Jakarta than do it on a bus when you look at it from just a chance of death point of view.

#6 mooball has been a member since 19/6/2010. Location: Australia. Posts: 439

Posted by exacto on 16/9/2015 at 11:20

@sambalgoreng. sorry, i recognize that you are likely not a native speaker of English, but i'm still having trouble understanding your post. somtam said that he travels a lot in Indonesia, and that even within that context nothing scares him like flying. it is fair comment, particularly given recent events and the dozens of articles about lax air safety standards there.

#7 exacto has been a member since 12/2/2006. Location: United States. Posts: 2,808

Posted by SBE on 16/9/2015 at 12:04

I agree with Mooball. Buses and kijang journeys can be WAY more scary than flying. I've never been on a flight as scary as one minibus trip between Medan and Lake Toba. The driver spent most of the time on the wrong side of the TransSumatran highway racing two other minibuses. We only got stopped once when the driver careed round a roundabout the wrong way and nearly ran over a traffic cop. And one of my numerous Kijang journeys between Gorontalo and Manado was pretty hairy too... the trip took 16 hours instead of the usual 9 because we had 3 punctures. The driver drove like an utter maniac and used illegal drugs to keep himself awake.

Also Indonesian boats do sink a lot. So far I've been a passenger in 3 fairly major boat incidents in the Togians alone....one old wooden ferry that caught fire half way between Gorontalo and the Togians (the Puspita used to do that run in the good old days), one snorkeling boat that completely overturned with 9 tourists on board and then sank. One relatively new dive boat that had its entire roof ripped off by the wind during a storm.

I've seen occasional ducktape reparations on Indonesian planes but in general they're far better maintained than other forms of public transport and if you're in a high speed minibus or motorbike crash your chances of survival aren't any better than if you fall several thousand feet out of the sky. Engine breakdowns on buses and boats are so common they don't even count but I've never been on a plane that had an engine breakdown ...yet.... :)

#8 SBE has been a member since 14/4/2008. Location: Global Village. Posts: 2,055

Posted by sambalgoreng on 16/9/2015 at 22:24

@exacto, I mean safety in domestic flights a lot improved recent years when compare land transport like buses and minibuses. Trains in Jawa even DAOP and KRL very improved nowadays but price also increase. Ferries I only use short crossings like Bakauheni-Merak, Ketapang-Gilimanuk, Padangbai-Lembar, Kayangan-Pototano and Labuanbajo-Sape. These IMHO also improve but I cannot comment PELNI boats multidays because I not use for more than 10 years like I can comment flights and trains.

#9 sambalgoreng has been a member since 25/9/2014. Posts: 32

Posted by savorygal on 17/9/2015 at 22:44

Hmmmmm I am hoping to go to the Bandas next spring but neither option ( flying or pelni ferry) sounds appealing.
Sadly, Indonesia is still a (huge) work in progress & it is a culture that doesn't appreciate consequences, hence building sub standard airports and safety not be a priority.
As an aside, there is a new high rise resort (13 stories or something) going up in Lombok on the beach & very close to the ocean, ignoring the 50 meter set back rule. With the amount of earthquakes here I would sure hate to be in that building during a tremor.... or high tide. shudder.

#10 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by Jainty on 7/10/2015 at 07:52

I took the slow boat to/from Lombok back in 1999. Lombok seemed so much more exotic back then.

#11 Jainty has been a member since 7/10/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by Pedroinspain on 10/10/2015 at 02:15

Regarding the OP - flying safety in Indonesia - things have changed. Twenty years ago it was indeed scary with Sempati, Merpati and even Garuda having regular fatalities. The recent Air Asia crash was the first 50+ fatality in 7 years. The record is certainly not stellar, but things have definitely improved. In my recent 30 day trip to Indonesia I took 7 flights. There were no cancellations or significant delays; no baggage damage or losses. All of the planes were modern and appeared visually to be properly looked after - no oil smears or rust leaks.

My thoughts are that if you fly Silk Air, Garuda, Lion Air or Air Asia and their daughter companies (Wings Air; Malindo) you should be fine. Of these, Lion Air might be your first 'suspect'. But consider that it was the launch customer for the Boeing 737-900ER; it set a record for the largest single order ever from Boeing; in 2013 it surpassed even that record with its order for 234 A320s. Its average aircraft age is only 5 years. This is not a peanut outfit.

I would avoid the operations with few aircraft and definitely avoid those outfits banned from EU airspace - for a list of the latter see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/asia/indonesia/11807426/How-dangerous-is-flying-in-Indonesia.html

#12 Pedroinspain has been a member since 24/12/2013. Posts: 13

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