Hello guys! This time I'm back with the trip reports, and also for this one I'm bringing to you one of my past experiences. Earlier this year on January 2017, me and my family decided visit the island of Belitung, in Bangka-Belitung Province which lies east of South Sumatera Province in Indonesia. Since my family came up with the decision on late October 2016, I was very eager and excited for this flight, since this is my first time because this flight marks my almost-5-year hiatus from flying with Garuda Indonesia! My last flight with GA dated way back on early 2012 on a flight to Bangkok and back. Since then, I mostly travelled domestic and regional routes using LCC's such as Lion Air, Air Asia, and Citilink. What's more special about this flight is because I get to chance to fly on the Bombardier CRJ1000NG, one of the newest addition to the GA fleet which its purchase is intended to serve remote airports that are unreachable with their 737-800's. However, this excitement turned into disappointment at first, during the outbound flight to Belitung.
I was ready at the check-in counter almost 1.5 hours before the departure time which makes it very punctual. All of the check-in process went normal until I decided to have some "trash talk" with the counter officer. I asked whether we are boarding into a CRJ1000, and she said and apologized that due to operational issues my flight to Belitung this morning had been delayed for approximately 2.5 until 3 hours. Looking at their punctuality level, that's one thing you don't hear everyday when flying with GA. What's worse is apart from just being delayed, my CRJ1000 will be replaced with a 737-800 instead. It's like when you're so excited to try something new then it's just gone for good. Nevertheless, I didn't take this disappointment too seriously and took advantage of the delay compensation instead, the airline provided free breakfast at the lounge in T3 Ultimate. To be honest, the food was great and I couldn't resist to try all the meal served there! Finally, we proceeded to board around 9 AM which is 2.5 hours late of the STD which is 0625.
And luckily, I still haven't ran out of luck because this time, the inbound flight is really served by a CRJ1000. This flight really means a lot for me because it's been almost 7 years since I've flown on an aircraft apart from Boeing and Airbus. That was a Susi Air flight from Medan to my family hometown in Padangsidempuan, North Sumatera on an exquisite experience with its Cessna 208 Caravan. And this is my brief experience with the new bird I've never flown with before!
Carrier: Garuda Indonesia (GA/GIA)
Flight Number: GA 285
Origin Airport: H. A. S. Hanandjoeddin Airport - Tanjung Pandan, Belitung, Bangka Belitung Isl., Indonesia (IATA: TJQ/ICAO: WIOD) Destination Airport: Soekarno-Hatta Intl. Airport - Jakarta, Indonesia (IATA: CGK/ICAO: WIII) Flying Distance: 390 kilometres
All time information are given in Western Indonesian Time (UTC+7.00) Standard Time of Departure: 1630 hrs Actual Time of Departure: 1625 hrs Standard Time of Arrival: 1740 hrs Actual Time Arrival: 1717 hrs
Aircraft Registration Number: PK-GRS (MSN 19043) Aircraft Type: Bombardier Canadair CL600-2E25 Regional Jet 1000NG (CRJ1000NG) Aircraft Age: 2 years old
By around 1500 hrs, I headed from a nearby coffee stall, onto the Sijuk Rd. heading eastwards to the H. AS. Hanandjoeddin Airport. Formerly called Buluh Tumbang Airport, referring the local vicinity it was located in. This airport was then changed to be named after H. AS. Hanandjoeddin, a former regent of West Belitung Regency and an officer of the Indonesian Air Force during the early struggles of independences in the late 1940's. The airport is located 17 kilometres east of the regency capital, Tanjung Pandan.
The airport is very small in size, consisting of a single building which is only separated by a thin plywood barrier to differentiate the departure and arrival areas. No immigration facilities are available, because this is not an international airport. The check-in counter is very limited to a few and it takes less than 100 metres of walking to get through the whole process of check-in baggage drop, security scanning, and waiting for boarding at the gates. There are only a few if not unavailable shops at the boarding lounge, and during peak hours the boarding gate would get very cramped. Expect no seating is available and you would have to stand by the wall until you are ready to board. In 2014, the airport runway is lengthened to 2,250 metres to handle aircrafts such as the A320 family and B737. The airport exclusively serves domestic routes, mostly to Jakarta and a few regional inter-island connections to Pangkal Pinang in Bangka Island and Palembang in South Sumatera, as Belitung formerly belongs to South Sumatera province which its government is seated in Palembang. I really hope that the government is planning to construct a new, bigger, and better terminal building because this terminal isn't seem to do its job well anymore. Within the last 2 years, Belitung is becoming very popular among younger people as a short getaway destination, due to its proximity to Jakarta and cheap return fares as well as acommodation. Local-run tour package providers that include acommodation, transport, meal, and a guide for a few days are sprawling and competiting to attract a lot visitors and yes, they are surely succeeding in doing it. It is one of the tourist destinations that has boomed and has some kind of sudden hype effect due to pictures on social media.
Here's the pretty bird taking me back home:
Very excited to see the interior, I'll be sitting in 22C for today.
The seat pitch is comfortable however legroom and the width of the seat is significantly less than what you get in economy class of the 738's, for your information I stand 169 centimetres tall (5 feet 6.5 inches):
The view outside the cabin shortly after takeoff, notice that in Belitung there are a lot of holes and pits left open due to the excessive tin mining for the previous 40-50 years. Belitung is the nation's largest tin producer and is exported to various nations.
The flying distance to Jakarta is only more or less 400 kilometres, the captain informed beforehand that this flight would last about 52 minutes. So as a very short flight, shortly after the landing gear has been retracted and the seatbelt sign is off, the cabin crew immediately stood up and started the distribution of refreshments:
A hint of the safety instruction card, I apologize for forgetting to photograph the whole card by the way:(
This Garuda Indonesia flight is operated by the GA Explore! brand. The sub-brand was established back in late 2013 to serve routes previously unreachable by the regular 737-800's and other larger aircraft. Under the sub-brand, GA operates 18 Bombardier CRJ1000NG's and 16 ATR72-600 to remote airports. However, there are in fact some GA routes that operate between larger airports, but are by some reason handed over to the Explore! brand to operate, such as Palembang-Denpasar. Both airports, are international airports and the major airport in their corresponding provinces and both have runway lengths of over 3000 metres, capable of accomodating wide-body aircraft such as A330's and 777's.
There are a few key differences between the service offered by the Explore! sub-brand and the regular brand. FIrst of all, the Explore! sub-brand does not provide in-flight entertainment in their aircraft, nor they provide hot meal with choices between up to 3 options. Instead, light snacks and refreshments are offered, regardless of the flight duration. Beverages such as soft drinks, juice, and milk however are the same. The cabin crew also wear different attire compared to those serving the regular brand. Female FA's wear trousers instead of traditional-Indonesian-aspired Batik cloth of the regular attire. While male FA's wear regular blue-greenish shirt instead of full suit-and-tie attire. Here is the meal served on board this flight:
A savoury meat-vegetable mix filling bread, and a sweet cheesecake as a snack. Personally I think it's good, reminds me of traditional cakes sold at typical Indonesian morning markets. And a 330ml mineral water to finish it off
Having my meal finished in no time at all, I requested my must-have for every flight, a good glass of cold apple juice
A glimpse of the short cruise over the Java Sea, heading southwards toward Jakarta
It's a very short flight, and we're descending in no time at all. The planes makes a sharp bank to the right and makes a final approach to CGK, while giving the classic facade of Jakarta's northern coastline. Definitely one of my all-time favourite approach views.
Somewhere very close to the airport, some industrial complexes in Tangerang City
Touchdown! A GA 738 and an AirAsia A320 is already lining up for take-off as seen here:
Passing by the old terminal building and some of her "big brothers" sleeping….
Set to park at the remote parking just in front T3 Ultimate, and we're parking right next to PK-GPF, a 20-year old, and one of the first batch of A330-300 in the GA fleet, which has been repainted in the special Skyteam livery. One of the prettiest birds to be flown by GA out there for me. She's a pretty rare sighting down here in CGK because she often serves hajj and pilgrimage routes out of cities apart from Jakarta like Surakarta to Medina/Jeddah.
We're intact, and while waiting for the doors to be opened I can see that GPF's pushing back:
Disembarking the aircraft walking towards the front door:
The first few rows of the CRJ1000 fleet GA are fitted with seats of the exact same width and pitch, but more legroom. It's like the substition for a business class on these aircrafts, you would have to pay more to fly on these seats:
DIsembarked, and waiting for the next bus to get me into the arrival hall of T3 Ultimate
And.. we're finally in the arrival hall. As usual, a flight to T3 Ultimate means leg day because you have to walk your way to the baggage claim area without the help of any people movers. Not to mention having to walk an extra few hundred metres to find the designated conveyor belt to collect your belongings, and walking your way back again to the parking building because that's where the pickup area is, if you're not taking a taxicab or a bus service to one of the terminals in Jabodetabek area.
Tanjung Pandan-Belitung Island - TJQ
Jakarta - CGK
Well done to GA for keeping their consistency in timing, cabin crew friendliness and service, as well as keeping their light snacks on the better side. The lack of IFE however is not something to be overly thought about, since it's a very short flight as well. It's not a deal-braker but on longer routes it might be bothersome for some people. No further comments are needed for both airports, Belitung definitely needs immediate action to upgrade, while T3 Ultimate definitely needs to watch for its visitors comfort, efficiency of crowd flow, and access. I hope you find this review informative, and thank you very much for reading. Stay tuned to the next reviews about GA flights to Bangkok and my short getaway this weekend with Batik and GA.
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