Hello everyone! As this is my first ever trip report, I'm going to tell you a bit about myself first. My name is Nafandra Syabana Lubis, however people usually call me Anaf. I'm an Indonesian national, proud Jakartan of Batak ethnicity currently studying in Bandung Institute of Technology majoring in Geodesy and Geomatics Engineering, class of 2016. I'm an avid aviation enthusiast since my childhood. I don't really know what's going on about planes but I sure do have loads of interest on them, without knowing exactly why until now! Me and my family are blessed as well to be keen on travelling a lot, so the good point is I've been flying with quite an array of airplanes from various airlines as well.
This trip report tells my experience from a few months ago. This is the return flight back home from my rather-unplanned, all of a sudden, quick getaway trip to Sumatera's as well as Indonesia's westernmost major city, Banda Aceh. Banda Aceh is the capital of the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam (NAD) Province, one of the few provinces in Indonesia to hold special autonomy because here, they implement sharia (Islamic) law and punishment to their Muslim citizens. The region is historically rich from the beginning. Since the kingdom of Srivijaya flourished from the 8th to the 13th century, the Aceh region is a major trade hub and gateway since it is very strategically-located right on the gates of the Malacca Strait. Therefore, seafarers and traders from the west such as Arab, Indian, as well as European people has set its foot on Banda Aceh during the past. Banda Aceh is also a very unique with a lot of historical landmarks and monuments. Banda Aceh lies approximately 1800 km northwest of my hometown and the nations' capital Jakarta.
Without further ado, these are the details of the flight:
Carrier: Garuda Indonesia (GA/GIA)
Flight Number: GA 141
Origin Airport: Sultan Iskandar Muda Intl. Airport - Banda Aceh, Indonesia (IATA: BTJ/ICAO: WITT) Destination Airport: Soekarno-Hatta Intl. Airport - Jakarta, Indonesia (IATA: CGK/ICAO: WIII)
All time information are given in Western Indonesian Time (UTC+7.00) Standard Time of Departure: 1010 hrs Actual Time of Departure: 1029 hrs Standard Time of Arrival: 1255 hrs Actual Time Arrival: 1301 hrs
Aircraft Registration Number: PK-GFW (MSN 39929)
Aircraft Type: Boeing 737-8U3
Just a random snap from the streets of Banda Aceh. Notice the motorbikes with enclosed cabins, they are called "bentor" or "betor" which is an abbreviation of the term becak-motor, which translates roughly as motorized rickshaw.
The Tsunami Museum, built as a memorial as well as an educative place for the people and tourists. It was built after the 2004 Indian Ocean 9.5 richter-scale earthquake and the tsunami wave devastated the area and killed over 150,000 people here in Aceh. It was designed by architect and current mayor of Bandung, Ridwan Kamil
These two pictures are taken within the Baiturrahman Grand Mosque complex, also with the newly installed retracting umbrellas that open when it is holding large amounts of people while it is very hot outside, such as Friday prayers and other Islamic festivities
As for today's flight, we'll be departing from Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport (WITT/BTJ). It is the sole international airport in the region. It is located in Blang Bintang, Aceh Besar Regency. 14 kilometres southeast the city centre of Banda Aceh. The most recent development of the airport was done back in 2009 as a part of the pasca-tsunami revitalization program. A new terminal building is erected and the runway is upgraded from 2250 m to 3000 m in length. It was designed to be compatible with an array of wide-body aircrafts such as the Boeing 777, Airbus A330, and the Boeing 747. On 2011, the first Boeing 747 landed successfully at the airport to carry pilgrimage passengers to Saudi Arabia. Today, it handles daily flights to Jakarta, Medan, and some international destinations to Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
Paddy fields and mountain-dominated scenery from the road heading to the airport.
The arrival area
The main terminal building as viewed from the arrival gates
The traffic handled by the airport is not that big for an airport of this size Today, beside my aircraft is parked an ATR72-500 owned by Firefly (9M-FYJ) bound for Penang, and a Lion Air B737-9GP(ER) (PK-LJZ) bound for Batam
The airport is… I don't know how to say this but despite being a rather new airport it's quite boring to be inside due to the lack of amenities offered by the management. Don't even try of comparing it with major Southeast Asian hubs namely SIN, KUL, and BKK because it isn't even on par with CGK, especially the new T3 Ultimate. Cleanliness is average, and the air conditioning is not really doing its job as it was supposed to but isn't on the bothersome side yet. The airport has decent amount of parking lots, however the only public transport out of the airport are taxi and DAMRI buses that connect to the city and some other places throughout the region. Airports in Indonesia are really lacking transport supporting infrastructures nowadays, really.
Not the best of weather conditions for today…
STD was 1010, therefore the boarding was supposed to commence 40 minutes before (should've started at 0930). However, I waited for way almost half an hour and the boarding commenced finally at 0955. Luckily, the boarding process went smoothly, swiftly and due to the low traffic at the airport pushback are very immediate after door closing as well as the takeoff process. I assumed that it only took an incredible 10 minutes from the final passenger boarding to door closing, pushback, taxiing, and takeoff altogether! Something that is frankly impossible at Soekarno-Hatta lol.
Another thing that is quite rare nowadays in busier airports: boarding with the aerobridges!
This particular aircraft is the PK-GFW. One of the newer fleet that comprises the 70+ 737-800's that GA operate as the backbone of the fleet. It was delivered to GA back in May 2013.
I'll be seating in 39J for today. Notice the IFE's displaying the wrong flight number! :p
1. The typical legroom in a GA 738 economy cabin, 2. Boarding process, I was one of the first passengers to board, 3. Loving the Sky Interior hues inside!
Even though the flight is scheduled to be 2h 45mins, the captain announced prior to the safety video that the flight would take 2h 27mins only. Take-off and ascent went well and we quickly kept on track 130 and cruised at FL350. This flight happens to cross into lunchtime, therefore, hot meal is distributed throughout the flight. The cabin crew only offered "chicken" or "fish", and so I opted for the chicken meal. It is always a mystery behind what's accompanying the fish or the chicken before we get our hands on it though…
The hot meal is finally served
So and it was rice, Padang-style curry chicken, with carrots and greens. You also get a stawberry-flavoured jelly for dessert. What is very unfortunate that despite the chicken itself is pretty good, the rice lacks the humidity and texture, whereas the green vegetable are definitely not fresh. Sadly saying that if you leave it for another 3-4 hours it'll rot I guess…
Before the hot meal was distributed, I decided to search for anything interesting in the IFE, and finally decided to watch the Indonesian movie "Sabtu Bersama Bapak". One of my friends really suggested reading the novels, and after having read the novels I finally got the chance of watching the movie…on an airplane flying 35,000 feet above Sumatera.
Sabtu Bersama Bapak at FL350
The flight was coming to an end…
The aircraft landed safely at about 1300, and parked on the remote parking just in front T3 Ultimate at CGK. No airbridges this time.. we're going with the bus. And that concludes my short getaway-ending flight from BTJ to CGK. If you've been to the T3 Ultimate at CGK, then you must've known how big it was. Knowing how big it was, you must've known as well how badly equipped the terminal building was, for a concourse of that size. Despite having more decent amenities and array of restaurants, cafes, and other shopping options than the older 2 terminals at CGK, one that is unable to walk far distances/disabled person will obviously find the terminal building frustrating because you might be dropped at a gate on one end of the terminal, then you have to walk yourself all the way to the other edge to get to the baggage claim. Not to mention if by the time you reached the baggage claim area you have to walk another 100 metres or so to get to your conveyor belt. It's like traversing the whole length of the terminal back and forth - without any people movers available, because that's what I get after disembarking!
The building is probably more than 500 metres in length and the fact that no people mover facility has been installed is quite saddening to hear. Also, travellers or locals that are regular CGK users are very aware that CGK has the (probably) one of the worst baggage handling facilities in the whole world. Except lengthy waiting times for your baggage, especially when you're on a cramped flight. And this also concludes the current sad situation happening about airports in Indonesia. Yes, obviously they're being built everywhere extensively and they're getting better in terms of look and amenities. But they just seem to lack efficiency, good service, and little details that makes the difference. If you have any inquiries or questions, regarding the flight, or other flight experiences, or just simply anything, just feel free to put them in the comments sector below!
Banda Aceh-Sumatra Island - BTJ
Jakarta - CGK
To summarize, as a 5-star-rated airline by Skytrax and 2 years back-to-back of World's Best Cabin Crew, GA is really consistent about its flight and aircraft quality, crew hospitality, service, and punctuality, but needs improvement on the catering quality and freshness. Nevertheless, it is still the pride of the nation and our recent feats in airline awards are one of the few world-class awards that Indonesia can be proud of. Keep improving and striving to be the best, GA! While airport companies such as AP 1 and 2 should focus on providing better airports in the near future, otherwise people would get sick of it. Stay tuned to my reports as later this week I'm heading to Yogyakarta on a family trip! I'll be flying Batik from CGK and Garuda return. Thank you very much, and have a nice day!
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