Report #23: ID7153 - Trying hard enough to beat Garuda?
This will be my report on flying Batik Air economy class from Jakarta to Singapore, a short haul international flight within SE Asia. This report is also unique as it also features the new airport train service from downtown Jakarta to Jakarta CGK.
Friday evening and Saturday morning flights tend to be rather expensive, but for Lion Air group (i.e. Lion and Batik; Wings doesn't fly to Singapore), their fares had been pretty erratic as well. There are 2 main options available for me: - Lion: repeating the same flight as what I took > 4 months ago but cheaper at Rp800000 (US$59.5), or - Batik: Lion's full service subsidiary, a smidgen more comfortable and ticked another airline off my checklist for Singapore - Indonesia flights (leaving me with only Scoot and China Airlines (did that, not reviewed) to try), but also a bit more expensive at Rp905000 (US$67) after OTA discount.
I ended up choosing Batik, buying the ticket only 10 hours before the flight during my trip to the airport.
Trip to Jakarta CGK and check-in
While I had dinner with my ex-colleagues, I didn't realize that the online airport train ticket booking closed 2 hours before departure, which means that instead of departing from downtown I needed to take the airport train from Batu Ceper Stn, the last train station sharing the rail with the existing electric commuter train services before going to the airport branch. On the plus side, the airport train itself would cost only Rp35.000 (US$2.3) before admin fee.
To reach the airport, I went from Kebayoran Stn near my ex-office to Batu Ceper Stn by electric commuter train, which costed me Rp4000 (US$.3). This approach, however, can be pretty risky: to reach Batu Ceper Stn I needed to transfer twice and the train towards Batu Ceper Stn only runs once every 30 minutes, which means that I needed to have a look at the train schedule carefully.
The temporary ticket, which includes Rp10000 (US$.75) deposit.
Transferring between trains isn't a pleasant experience, such as at Tanah Abang Int where most of us resorted to taking staircases up to the original building and then down to the platform.
As the Batu Ceper Stn is still under construction, to transfer from the electric commuter train station to the airport train station one must tap out and ask to get in through the manual gate to transfer, walking beside the station controller's office.
I then walked to the platform towards downtown Jakarta, where I took the shot of the platform for airport-bound trains.
Afterwards, I walked up to the seemingly turned off turnstile where a staff followed me from far away. Since the Batu Cepet Stn is still rather messy including its turnstile configuration, he then tapped his staff card and allowed me to exit to the main area.
I walked along the second floor building to go down to the current "proper" station.
The station have self-service ticketing kiosks, while the station staff himself didn't directly sell the tickets.
The turnstile accept 2D codes on the ticket, but since I relied on the e-ticket on my phone I needed to increase my screen's brightness to have the code scanned.
The platform itself only has lighting and shelter - no seats, let alone power plugs (benches were available before passing through the turnstile).
As the train station accompanied me to the train (I was the sole person departing from the station), I also got to clarify some things with him: - When is the booking cut-off time: 2 hours for online booking, 15 minutes for in-station booking (hence the reason why I couldn't book tickets from downtown earlier) - How long does the train stop: ~3 minutes. - Do people use it to go to downtown Jakarta: apparently, some do (way more luxurious and less crowded than the electric commuter train, plus bypassing the often crazy traffic, despite the arguably steep fare for daily uses)
The train soon arrived.
Unlike those in Medan, the train rolling stock in Jakarta is made by Bombardier and INKA (an Indonesian train manufacturing company). The train looks a lot like the first class intercity cars, and in fact the car numbering stats with K1 which is usually allocated to first class intercity cars.
The seats are also pretty basic, except that it's slightly wider than the first class intercity car since there is no need to make it swivel. Also, note the lack of table.
Seats are also reclinable.
Legroom is decent, and the lack of swivel mechanism makes it easier to stretch.
While there is no AC power supply, USB plugs were available.
Adjustable curtains were available.
Typical of airport trains elsewhere, luggage racks were also there.
The toilet and urinal were very clean by Indonesian train standard.
I soon arrived at the airport train station.
Since there's nothing at the platform, I exited the paid area.
There are two waiting rooms available, one at each side.
The self-service ticketing machine and people mover schedule.
Cardboard boxes galore?
I then walked to the people mover station.
The people mover station platform, which sadly offers no Wi-Fi.
Since Indonesians can't be much trusted to let those alighting go out first, ropes were in place.
Some photos of the people mover's interior.
Since sleeping in terminal 2 wouldn't be as pleasant, I proceeded to terminal 3 instead, which features the only people mover station integrated into the terminal.
An escalator ride brought me to the departure floor.
After some security check I was let in (note that there's no ticket check at this point).
Terminal 3 at night.
AirAsia had moved its international operations to terminal 3, but they still hasn't got any self check-in machine.
After taking the people mover to terminal 2, I walked through the still quiet pick-up area.
Since the original walkway to the arrivals area was renovated, they used fabric covers fit for wedding instead.
An elevator ride is needed to get to the departure floor.
The terminal had started to gt crowded.
Afterwards, there was a cursory ticket check and a preliminary security check to get to the check-in area.
Back to the old-school check-in area.
Lion Air group's check-in area was located just beside the domestic check-in area.
Some queues had formed.
At first I queued at the counter 68, but I then asked for which counter to use to the staff since only one was marked for the flight, to which the staff suggested me to use the counter 67 with slightly shorter queue. Nonetheless, it still took me 15 minutes to clear check-in, which was painfully slow. I then asked: - How many people on board (just quite full), and - Can I get the rear exit row seat by the window (something like row 14 on LCCs; there's one in the front but the one on the rear was full - must be unfamiliar with Batik's A320 configuration, but still ended up getting the one I meant)
By the time I cleared check-in, the flight indicators on the counters remained very unclear.
The boarding pass of the day, which was shady because it's in the receipt-like stock and the check-in staff put my luggage tag at the front instead of rear.
A large number of uniform suitcases.
Since this trip called for completely no passport stamp, I decided to use the automated gates. This time, the gates worked well and I was let through in less than 1 minute.
Jakarta CGK transit area and departure
The automated immigration gates from behind, which was completely empty.
At first I checked the T/G lounge, which featured Rp150000 (US$11.1) entry fee but seemed abysmal and lacked shower, so I passed.
The Premier Lounge comes with shower and costs Rp200000 (US$15) to enter. The fee was beyond my comfortable price range, so despite the lounge staff inviting me to have a look first before paying up I refused and passed it again.
The most expensive of all is the Pura Indah lounge, which also comes with shower but costs Rp255000 (US$19) to enter. While I'm cool on paying for lounge access, my acceptable price points are quite low (talk about S$24 (US$18) for one-time access to SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore after discount, which I'll review in a few weeks and among them include alcoholic beverages and shower).
The walkway to the D gates.
2 months and still no sign of opening yet?
I opted for a quick meal at the Old Town restaurant, which were it not for the outside view I wouldn't even bother - that nasi lemak alone costed me Rp64000 (US$4.9), far above what I would comfortably pay for a meal in Indonesia.
This is not Tokyo HND, but there are 3 Japanese airlines' planes parked next to each other. Lion's elusive, ultra-dense A330-300 can be seen as well.
I continued to the E gates for security screening.
Previously only used by Garuda, terminal 2's F gates are now mainly used by AirAsia and Sriwijaya's domestic flights.
Security took a while.
The usual stuffs.
Unlike in the D gates, however, the sleeping seats aren't as cushy.
I proceeded to the E6 gate as in the boarding pass - note the last-minute shuffling.
The lack of boarding pass check staff seems really strange - or is it?
When I checked the flight on Google it showed the flight as departing from E3 gate instead, so I went there where I happened to see the staffs about to board as well.
Now that's normal - boarding pass check staffs existing. I then alerted them of people still in gate E6, and then the other staff went there.
Just the typical gate on Jakarta CGK.
The plane about to bring me back.
Boarding soon started with priority enforced for a few seconds, after which it was a free for all.
I had tried to board later on, but even so there was still a long queue at the aerobridge.
Two flight attendants welcomed me onboard (too bad I took the photo downward)
Passing through the business class cabin - the child at 3A may fly on business earlier, but I'm catching up (when the fares are cheap)
Unbeknownst to me, I had been assigned to the rear exit row seat, which feature decent legroom.
A personal TV with 3.5 mm and USB plugs were also available.
The in-flight magazine wasn't absent this time.
So does the safety card - unlike on Lion the exit row instructions were inside the card as well.
Since it's Lion Air group, prayer card was also available - but I couldn't see any airsickness bag inside.
Their IFE is, to say the least, made very much as an afterthought. Here's why:
Despite me choosing the IFE in Indonesian, the movie captions were in English (read: no effort to translate)
Just up for musics? Here, you'll get none of them. So much for claiming to try to beat Garuda?
On the lower part of the screen, Lion Group was simply put using Batik Air logo. Not only that, they couldn't translate Our airlines properly to Indonesian despite them being an Indonesian airline.
We soon pushed back and two anti-drug ads, which were all in Indonesian, were shown. Also, note the lack of Indonesian translation for the stow for … warning (even as the IFE screens are not adjustable).
A safety video followed, featuring sign language interpreter who looked like a male.
After passing through the queue, we finally managed to take off from the runway 25R.
Garuda's 737 on SkyTeam livery was also among those queuing after us.
The weather of the day seemed rather gloomy.
I was tired and slept just until moments before the meal service.
The flight attendant bringing what seemed like a lot of water.
I was expecting a hot meal, but was sorely disappointed with the foods and drink provided, which are: - Main course: Bread with meat filling and nugget chunks - Sweet bread: Muffin - Drink: Nestle brand water / coffee / tea
Instead of putting it in boxes like Garuda do, they put it in fast food-style paper bag.
The breads were both so dry I ended up asking for second serving of water, and while the muffin was fine (I tried it after landing; not a huge fan of it) the bread with meat was too unassuming and the nugget chunks seemed like someone had just thought, "Give them some more meat". In terms of presentation, the packaging used were not full-service at all and we were even supposed to eat the nugget by hand instead of fork. On overall, it's the worst meal on the Singapore - Indonesia shuttle and only on par with Garuda's snack for a 25 minutes flight. If you come to Batik for the meal thinking it's full service, you'll be sorely disappointed.
If there's one thing they do right, it's that they put the Batik brand on the glass.
There was some minor turbulences, but the rest of the cruise uneventful.
During the meal I decided to watch the moving map, which was again rather poor (basically only zoomed in/out maps with all details crammed up).
I took another nap again through the descent as I still lacked sleep from the early morning departure.
When I woke up, I was greeted with the familiar sight of Singapore.
We reached the airport in a few minutes.
During the final approach, the IFE had already become unusable.
Landing was uneventful, and soon we taxied to the gate.
We were parked beside Singapore's A350.
Others had already started waiting to deplane.
The business class from behind, featuring screens at the seatback.
A familiar sight: ad-plastered aerobridge.
As how it usually goes: the plane was parked at A16 gate.
Arrival at Singapore SIN and post-arrival trip
The thermal scanner.
Luckily, there was no screening on arrival for this flight.
Instead of walking through the moving walkways ….
I used the automated people mover instead.
The outside view of the airport.
The APM station have platforms to terminal 2 as well as to A16-A20 gates.
Immigration was as usual quiet and I was let through in less than 1 minute.
Alcoholic beverages shop? Give it a miss first - I arrived less than 48 hrs before.
The carousel was shared with the Garuda flight from Surabaya, which I'll take in the next few weeks. My bag arrived 14 minutes from when I deplaned, which was good.
The terminal 3 arrival landside area - it took me 15 minutes from when I stepped off the plane to clearing the customs.
I then took the bus.
Unlike other terminals', terminal 4's public bus stop is located outside.
Jakarta - CGK
Singapore - SIN
I had never flown on Batik internationally (my parents did; on charter flights), but now that I've flown it on the shuttle route, I must say it's a very disappointing experience. From the indecent meals to low quality entertainment, were it not to tick off an airline off my list I may as well downgrade to Lion and still enjoy free exit row seating and checked luggage while saving some cash.
Batik wouldn't be on my to-avoid list, for sure, but it's not high on my priority as well with its higher fares and poor value for money.
Some thing done well for the trip: + Lack of immigration queue at Jakarta CGK + Relatively new plane + Free emergency exit row seat assignment + Provision of USB charging plug + Reasonably efficient immigration at Singapore SIN
Things that can be improved: - Expensive price (Rp905.000 (US$67) after OTA discount - expensive given the services) - Inability to do online check-in - Slow people mover at Jakarta CGK - Check-in queue length at Jakarta CGK - Check-in staff's unfamiliarity with Batik's A320 layout - Amenities at Jakarta CGK international departure gates - Lack of communication on gate change - Chaotic boarding - High load factor - Poor in-flight entertainment - On board meal taste, packaging, and size
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