Review of SilkAir flight Singapore Surabaya in Economy

Airline SilkAir
Flight MI226
Class Economy
Seat 10A
Aircraft Airbus A320
Flight time 02:20
Take-off 30 Sep 17, 16:30
Arrival at 30 Sep 17, 17:50
MI   #31 out of 131 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 62 reviews
Eric V P
By GOLD 1500
Published on 3rd October 2017
Report #15: MI226 - All thanks to the missing passport

This will be my report on flying on SilkAir economy class from Singapore to Surabaya, a short-haul international flight within SE Asia.

Background


Singapore Airlines' group of full-service carriers provided a promotional fare of only S$170 (US$125) roundtrip for a flight on a full-service carrier to Surabaya SUB inclusive of baggage, meal, and entertainment, which was reasonably priced I ended up flying with them.

I was originally booked on the SQ flight, however as I missed my passport in SIN terminal 3 transit area while on my way to SIN terminal 2 I ended up having myself transferred to the MI flight later that day with my kosher meal order not brought as well to the MI flight (a review of it will come on the flight back with SQ)

This report may be slightly heavier than usual on the transit area review as I stayed there for quite long (around 16 hours).

Trip to SIN and check-in


A view of my campus - one of the farthest places from the airport in Singapore, and unfortunately I am staying there throughout my study.
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I then visited the ArtScience museum, and after wandering around for a while decided to go to Little India, which was decorated with Diwali-related pictures.
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Rather than taking the metro train, I decided to take a detour to Orchard station, charge my phone battery, and take the 36 bus to Singapore SIN. The bus service is not that fast as its maximum speed is capped at 60 km/h, however it offers a balance between a scenic view and low fare.

A view of Orchard Road at late night.
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The bus was coloured with the new common livery and operated by Go-Ahead Singapore.
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The interior, on the other hand, mimics the one usually used by SBS Transit.
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A view of Singapore at night.
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As the bus went via Marine Parade, I passed b the hotel I stayed at several years ago.
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After the 50 minutes ride, I arrived at Singapore SIN terminal 3 bus bay. Despite my flight departing from Singapore SIN terminal 2, I alighted at terminal 3 because the counters at terminal 2 was already closed.
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The arrival area was quite quiet.
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The same could be also said for the departure area.
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The first/business class row, which was the only manned row at that time.
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I decided to give the self check-in machine a try.
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Check-in was painless and I updated my seat to a normal window seat from the bulkhead window seat.


The boarding pass, however, was horrendous with only a flimsy, plain boarding pass stock used typical of self check-in machine at Singapore SIN.
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I decided to drop my bag at the early check-in/business class counter, which was fast. Due to security reason, I was unable to get a new boarding pass printed from their proper boarding pass stock.
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SIN masterplan. My next review will cover the (by that time) newly opened terminal 4, so stay tuned!
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Renovation was underway at SIN terminal 3 public check-in area.
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I passed through immigration in less than 1 minute as it was a quiet day.

SIN transit area and departure


The transit area was quieter than usual, even though Singapore SIN terminal 3 transit area is already quieter than the other 2 terminals.
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I had a minced meat noodle supper at the food court, which was dismal for its S$5 (US$3.8) price tag. The photo of the meal would be a part of solving the puzzle later on in the morning.
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I decided to give a try on the interterminal shuttle bus, which was located below Singapore SIN transfer lounge B.
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There were no flight arriving, so the immigration counters were empty as well.
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A view of the waiting area, which was only occupied by the security guards.
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The bus serving the sole shuttle bus route, which was the same as the one serving the public area interterminal transfer.
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Some views of SQ's planes from below.
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SIN's baggage handling system could be seen on the trip.
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Some planes on Singapore SIN terminal 1 was also visible.
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The bus has a quite low ridership, seen from the quiet waiting area.
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I partook in the S$2 (US$1.5) Starbucks coffee offer for those who checked in early.
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SIN terminal 2 is SilkAir's and Scoot's home, however a United plane bound for Hong Kong could be seen as well.
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Most stores were closed as Singapore SIN is not a truly 24 hours airport with its off-peak period being at very late night and it's not nearly as much of a hub like Doha DOH among others.
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I proceeded to the rest area, which involved an arduous walk.
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The free rest area was quite well-equipped with padded seats and sleeping chairs. One of my friends complained of me complaining of the lack of carpet at Jakarta CGK on my previous trip, but that was proven untrue as it was necessary to keep the area very quiet at this period.
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The sleeping chair of the night, which was generally comfortable except for the overly steep bump at the headrest.
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FIDS for the morning.
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Nasi lemak for breakfast?
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I opted for a paper bowl of ramen for breakfast instead at Ippudo Express.
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The ramen was acceptable for the price.
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A breakfast with a view.
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I then realized that I misplaced my passport in the transit area, had the information counter page everybody, and asked me to proceed to the transfer lounge E. The ground staff, operated by SATS, then called the gate staff, offloaded my bag, cancelled my flight, and requested me to trace the passport's whereabouts before returning. On my search, I remembered of the photo of my passport with minced meat noodle and called the lost and found to inform the last known location, only to have them mention that it was found at a water fountain. I then proceeded to Singapore SIN terminal 3 transit area to collect the passport, and returned to the transfer lounge E. The ground staff just told me to sit while she processed my replacement segment, and after a gruesome wait of several minutes called me to provide my new boarding for the next Singapore Airlines group flight, operated by SilkAir later on the afternoon. She also told me that it was not possible to get a replacement kosher meal for the flight and I was unable to leave the transit area (note that going in and out of transit area as a passenger without actually taking a flight can be subject to arrest in Singapore). While I appreciated the efficiency, I did not appreciate the ground staff which just asked me to sit without much remark and seemed not to be enthusiastic.

The boarding pass was printed on MI's boarding pass stock, which also carries the note of me being aware of the lack of my special meal since SQ/MI's boarding pass does not carry any wording of special meal request.
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The flight was also marked as pending and I ended up having to confirm it through Singapore's call centre out of fear of my return flight being cancelled.
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I opened Flight-Report's website, which also had another review of MIposted recently. Photo was taken on the working area, which offered two AC plugs to charge both my portable comupter and handphone (there would be no AC plugs on MI's A320)
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TZ's livery on ex-TR's A320.
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After my work, I decided to queue for the famous Irvins brand salted egg potato chips, which took me 25 minutes.

Thanks to the long queue, I ended up running to my gate and even so one of the ground staffs reminded me and several other people of the gate being almost closed.
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The plane of the day could be seen on my way to the gate.
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Security was swift as a lot of people had already boarded.
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The gate agent would then verify the details and scan the boarding pass, noting a quite full load and without tearing the boarding pass.
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A view of the almost empty gate.
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First close-up sight of the plane.
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There was a lot of queue on the way to the plane.
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After close to 5 minutes of waiting at the aerobridge, I reached the plane.
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On board


Flight: MI226
Plane: 9V-SLO
STD/ATD: 16.30/16.35
STA/ATA: 17.50/18.15
Load factor: 80 - 90%
Seat type: Standard exit row economy class
Details: https://flightaware.com/live/flight/SLK226/history/20170930/0830Z/WSSS/WARR

I boarded the plane, and as I was waiting in the galley area the flight attendant asked me whether Irvins (a brand of the highly popular salted egg potato chips/fish skin in Singapore) was available in Indonesia. I answered with a no, and she remarked that a large number of people on this flight had them as well, noting from the distinctive bright yellow plastic bag.

Passing through the business class with its dated seats.
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As I had not enough money to shell for the business class, I continued my way backwards to the economy class, with seatbacks slightly shorter than were they fitted with an IFE screen.
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I had a row all to myself in the non-reclinable emergency exit row except during take-off and landing where a flight attendant would sit there as well.
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Legroom was typical of an emergency exit seat row.
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A foldaway table was provided at the armrest.
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The pocket content included safety guide and MI-branded airsickness bag.
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The Straits Times newspaper were distributed along with Lianhe Zaobao.
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MI uses SilkAir Studio for their in-flight entertainment, which unlike many other IFE require passengers to bring their own device.
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During boarding, I had the opportunity to see a lady pulling another female's hair and shouted just at the row in front of me, apparently out of family issue. I decided not to document the drama, but it was such a mess the aviation security came upon landing.

Thanks to the slightly downgraded experience on SilkAir (they are a regional airline, after all), chilled towelettes were provided instead of Singapore's signature hot towel.
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Safety video was played through the overhead monitor.
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After a slightly long taxi, we took off from runway 20C and started our climb accompanied with a clear weather.
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With the table behind row 9 seats being usable, I had two tables for myself.
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There were some minor turbulences along the way during the meal service, which temporarily did not allow coffee or tea to be served.
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The meal of the day was very basic and consisted of just:
Main course: Rice with steamed fish in curry sauce and steamed vegetables or fusilli with fried chicken cutlets and long beans in tomato puree
Dessert: Kings brand bite-sized ice cream (served separately close to 30 minutes after the main course)

Drinks were a simple affair as well with offers including:
Water: Mineral
Hot drinks: Coffee, tea (unavailable during minor turbulence)
Soft drink: Coca Cola, 7-Up
Fruit juice: Apple, orange
Alcoholic beverages: Beer, red wine, white wine

I opted for the rice with fish option accompanied with white wine served by the mini bottle, which was hideous. To start off, the rice was drier than expected and not helped by the amount of curry inside. Fish was also quite small with very few curry although it tasted decent, and the vegetables were soggy. Their portion size was so small and the lack of bread doesn't help either, which contradicted the thought of catering from the hub being better than expected.
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The portion was so small when another cart passed by 20 minutes later I also asked for the pasta with chicken option accompanied with red wine served by the glass (signs of inconsistency, or is it ust that they ran out of wine?), which was equally dismal. The fried chicken portion was stingy, to say the least, while at the same time they loaded the box with a large amount of pasta.
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Despite those shortcomings, they at least still served the meal on proper cutleries, this time bearing SilkAir's logo.
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Several minutes later a cooler box went through an aisle with the flight attendant distributing ice cream. The ice cream was a very good gesture and tasted nice, though the lack of information beforehand still left a slightly sour note.
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My main benchmark for an IFE is its classical music options, and this BYOD IFE didn't perform as well with only the Missa Solemnis being recognized. Even with their limited options, it still took a long time to load I ended up giving up on their IFE and played my own music on Spotify instead.
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The seats just behind the first emergency exit row could be reclined, which is not usually the case on other airlines.
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I decided to visit the toilet, which has a queue formed and took me slightly more than 5 minutes to come in.

The toilet's lock handle was missing, showing its state of disrepair.
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Cleanliness was below average, though it was acceptable as the toilet was quite often used without time to clean.
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Some views during the cruise.
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We went on a holding pattern for quite a while, and afterwards starting its final approach to Surabaya SUB. The first officer constantly kept us updated throughout the flight, which was appreciated.

Short final to SUB runway 10.
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Landing was acceptable and we started taxiing to the gate, parked beside a Cathay Pacific A333.
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I bid farewell to the crew and proceeded to the arrival area.
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A view of SUB transit departure area, filled with passengers bound to Singapore SIN by SilkAir.
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Arrival at Surabaya SUB and post-arrival trip


The corridor leading towards the arrival immigration area.
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Last view of 9V-SLO.
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As there were 4 flights arriving at almost the same time (3x A320 from SIN, PEN, and KUL + 1x A333 from HKG), the queue took a very long time at close t 30 minutes.
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The arrival area was also very crowded and the bags from Singapore SIN had already been put down from the carousel.
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Customs were quite crowded as well and I passed through in 10 minutes.

SUB terminal 2 public area was packed with people waiting for the other passengers.
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I had my dinner afterwards and proceeded to Sahid hotel, where I would be spending my evening.

The hotel looked quite quiet at this time.
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Reception was also almost empty as there were only 60 rooms booked for the night even though it was a Saturday evening.
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The room looked slightly dated, though passable for a night of sleep.
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Bonus: Surabaya - Madiun by train


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Verdict

SilkAir

4.4/10
Cabin5.0
Cabin crew5.5
Entertainment/wifi4.0
Meal/catering3.0

Singapore - SIN

7.3/10
Efficiency9.0
Access6.0
Services6.0
Cleanliness8.0

Surabaya - SUB

4.4/10
Efficiency3.0
Access4.5
Services4.0
Cleanliness6.0

Conclusion

This first flight on MI didn't leave me with a very positive impression. While they are SQ's regional arm, they also happen to position themselves as a full-service carrier, which means my expectation was quite much on par with Singapore. To start of, the seats were slightly shorter as they had no screen, meaning that even on the highest position the headrest could not comfortably reach my head. Catering was also one of its weak points with shady main courses (note that MI is also based in SIN and expectations were slightly higher as flights departing from its hub tend to have better catering), although ice cream helped to alleviate the concern. IFE was also another concern as their selection was rather limited and the buffer time overly long I ended up giving up. On overall, MI isn't much of a joy to fly with as they advertised.

SIN was acceptable for the otherwise gruesome 16 hours of stay with its various facilities and efficiency, though the ground staff handling my rescheduling by SATS was not the best I could find. On the other hand, SUB terminal 2 seemed to be barely capable of coping multiple international flights at a time and ended up being quite uncomfortably crowded.

Would I fly MI again? Not when given the choice of SQ and MI like this, but for regional routes not served by MI they seemed to be an otherwise acceptable choice.

Some thing done well for the trip:
+ Reasonable fare (S$170 (US$128) roundtrip)
+ Acceptable check-in waiting and processing time
+ Acceptable immigration at Singapore SIN
+ Facilities for resting and working at SIN
+ Reasonably quiet transit area at SIN
+ Acceptable security at SIN
+ Acceptable flight attendant
+ Pre-departure towelette provision
+ Provision of two tables at emergency exit seat row
+ Dessert size and taste
+ Constant update from the first officer

Things that can be improved:
- SIN terminal and gate usage
- Flimsy self check-in boarding pass stock paper
- Expensive food at SIN
- Grumpy ground staff at SIN
- Inability to transfer special meal request (though admittedly it'll be a logistical nightmare to do so)
- Uncomfortable headrest
- Hideous main course options and portion size
- Lack of information of the dessert (otherwise I wouldn't end up asking for a second serving of the meal)
- Almost unusable IFE
- Poorly maintained lavatory
- Slow immigration and customs at SUB

Information on the route Singapore (SIN) Surabaya (SUB)

6 Comments

  • Comment 415272 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4845 Comments

    Nice report! Two SilkAir reports in one week, wow. Too bad the experience was disappointing, but the price is really good. As far as Asian carriers go it seems MI is somewhere between Full-service and LCC. Not quite on par with parent airline SQ, but definitely better than Scoot-Tiger. Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 415354 by
      Eric V P GOLD AUTHOR 119 Comments

      Thank you for visiting!

      That price was valid for flights on both Singapore and SilkAir flights (the group flies daily by Singapore and almost daily by SilkAir) and I couldn't agree more that it's obscenely cheap although it comes with strictly no change or refund allowed, so naturally I chose Singapore for both segments - were it not for the passport incident this would be a report on Singapore with Hermolis kosher meal. I'll be making the report on Singapore for my return flight shortly, though - hope there's no such incident going on again.

      SilkAir may look like a hybrid LCC at first, but compared with true hybrid LCCs like Malindo they seem more like a full-service carrier (just not a premium one like Singapore or Cathay; even Garuda cut their welcome drink on international economy class). Scoot/Tigerair, on the other hand, are pure LCCs like AirAsia or Cebu Pacific and therefore no match to SilkAir even though they belong to the same group as well.

  • Comment 421580 by
    ItsKevin 25 Comments

    Thanks for reporting! What a dramatic story during waiting at the airport!
    Wow, I also had quite bad experience with Silk Air. One of the meal choices always ran out when the trolley reached my row (even I sat on forward row on 737), so I always ended with one choice, which had bad taste. Their 737's legroom, I think, is not as large as the older 320

    The toilet's lock handle was missing, showing its state of disrepair.
    In this case, how did you lock the door?

    So, Madiun is your hometown? Maybe we can meet up when you back to SUB soon :)

  • Comment 421584 by
    Eric V P GOLD AUTHOR 119 Comments

    Thank you for reading!

    What a dramatic story during waiting at the airport!
    - Indeed it is - were it not for that I wouldn't be trapped in the airport for almost 16 hours straight.

    One of the meal choices always ran out when the trolley reached my row (even I sat on forward row on 737), so I always ended with one choice, which had bad taste. Their 737's legroom, I think, is not as large as the older 320
    - I remember they split into 2 trolleys, so it's not just a matter of sitting at the front. However, the taste was indeed bad I reckoned AirAsia's meals would win on that aspect. The legroom seems to be smaller indeed, but at least you got power supply on board, which for me is one redeeming factor.

    In this case, how did you lock the door?
    - Plug my index finger into the hole and slide it - but that thing is a bit hard to push.

    So, Madiun is your hometown? Maybe we can meet up when you back to SUB soon :)
    - It is indeed mine, but that was my first time returning home after > 1 year. Besides, my family would fly from Solo SOC (talk about not being near to a single civilian airport) when it comes to flying to Jakarta or even (before the route was closed) Singapore, so .... :P

    • Comment 421616 by
      ItsKevin 25 Comments

      - Plug my index finger into the hole and slide it - but that thing is a bit hard to push.
      Wah, you should give them a suggestion form about this problem, so they can improve it and maintain the planes well

      It is indeed mine, but that was my first time returning home after > 1 year. Besides, my family would fly from Solo SOC (talk about not being near to a single civilian airport) when it comes to flying to Jakarta or even (before the route was closed) Singapore, so .... :P
      Ahh I see, SOC and JOG are closer to Madiun, and tickets are cheaper right? :D

      • Comment 422062 by
        Eric V P GOLD AUTHOR 119 Comments

        Ahh I see, SOC and JOG are closer to Madiun, and tickets are cheaper right? :D
        - It highly depends, but SIN - JOG has been quite expensive because JOG is a ttourist destination. I only fly to/from there when the fare is good. SOC - CGK is at least cheaper than SUB - CGK, so it's my family's choice.

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