Review of Sriwijaya Air flight Yogyakarta-Java Island Surabaya in Economy

Airline Sriwijaya Air
Flight SJ234
Class Economy
Seat 5F
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 00:50
Take-off 19 Aug 14, 20:10
Arrival at 19 Aug 14, 21:00
SJ 12 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 5402
Published on 20th September 2014
Surabaya is not very far from Yogyakarta as the crow flies (264 km for JOG-SUB according gcmap.com, in relatively flat terrain), but the trains are slow and the roads jammed, and the schedule of this flight made it possible to spend the entire day visiting Yogyakarta.

I admit that I was fascinated by the very name of Sriwijaya Air – there is a comprehensive historic bonus in the introduction of this FR by Darisinikesana (in French).

CDG - NRT : Air France (Boeing 777-300ER) Sunrise
NRT - DPS : Garuda Indonesia (Boeing 777-300ER) The island of Gods
DPS - JOG : Garuda Indonesia (Boeing 737-800) The city of the Ramayana
JOG - SUB : Sriwijaya Air (Boeing 737-800) A zero height volcano (You are here)
MLG- DPS : Wings Air (ATR72-600) The sulfur volcano (English version to be posted)
DPS – ICN : Garuda Indonesia (Airbus 330-300) The calm of the morning (English version to be posted)
ICN – CDG : Korean Air (Airbus 380-800) Bad flight (English version to be posted)

This is incidentally the first FR in English on an airline which is banned in the European Union, i.e. recorded in the infamous EU black list. If you are in this kind of thrills without taking excessive risks, Indonesia is a great place for flying black list : it has lots of airlines, many of which have not gone bankrupt yet, all (except flag carrier Garuda Indonesia and its subsidiary Citilink) are on the black list, and the Indonesian domestic flights' safety record is actually relatively good (at least compared to its inter-islands ferries)

This FR starts with a picture of Sambisari Temple, which happens to be ten minutes from JOG by car, and in the middle of the left turn of aircraft taking off from there,

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… like this Citylink A320

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… or this Air Asia A320

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We were a little too far from the airport for plane spotting (which was not in the program of our friendly driver), so we headed towards JOG which is also an air force base; this is it entrance gate.

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The access to the civilian side looks less grand, but this level crossing shows that the train station is very close to the terminal, which is good point for JOG's accessibility.

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We cross the railroad tracks, then the avenue which leads to the city center, and reach the terminal in the background

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… after paying a very modest parking / entrance fee: no matter where you are in the east of Java Island, there is somebody claiming a 1,000 – 2,000 fee for parking there.

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The space under the overhang of the terminal's roof is quite crowded, but there is enough space for moving a luggage trolley around (trolleys are plentiful).

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We are not supposed to reach our destination very late, but I am worried about the amount of food that we could find landside in SUB (I am going to be wrong on both counts). I choose therefore to have a very early dinner in JOG, where the choice is very limited: this restaurant which is signposted close to the domestic arrivals looks very much like a fast food joint.

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Fat-food for fast-food, better choose one which has ample lighting and ample available space. It is local food too, which may not be obvious given this Xi'an terracotta warrior replica (I wonder how it got here). Note that this Horizon Café is hostile to both handicapped travelers and luggage trolleys.

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On the condition of not being too choosy of course, because both our first choices were unavailable, including nasi goreng which is to Indonesia what a handburger with a small order of fries is to the US, in terms of ubiquity. (The difference it cannot be rated as junk food).

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So this are our Plans B, which were not the gastronomic climax of this vacation, but which id feed us, at a 50% markup compared to city prices, or roughly 3 USD more for the two of us.

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What else is there to see landside in JOG, after this forgettable dinner? People probably waiting for passengers outside.

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I discovered this exchange booth that I had not really looked for when we arrived from Paris.

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The exchange rates are much more decent there than in the luggage delivery room: in a matter of 150 ft, the euro goes up from 14,000 rupiah to 15,100 rupiah (I received 15,400 in town). Note that for many currencies, the exchange rate depends on the denomination of the bills that you provide. This is imposed by the Indonesian central bank, and it puzzles me. The euro has an advantage here, and it is just as easy to use as USD in the country (apart from the visa in flight).

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The domestic arrivals area is completely deserted

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In theory, you are supposed to show your plane ticket to enter the terminal (some passengers have last century kind others, others computer printouts like ours), but our passports were enough to be let in by the guard.

The arrangement of the check-in counters indicated by two displays (left and right) is simple:

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For short, the LCCs and newcomers (Silk Air and Batik Air) are on the left, the full service airlines on the right

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It is crowded on the LCC side

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… whereas there are much fewer passenger on the high cost side, where each counter is dedicated to a single flight.

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Some nondescript shops on a side in the background

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The FIDS, where are flight is not yet listed.

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There are six seats only on these steel benches, plus two luggage platforms where you could sit too, which means that many passengers are on the floor.

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The access to the airside zone is behind the flight insurance counter with multicolored stripes.

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An outlet of a ubiquitous chain of convenience stores is on the left

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There is a free wifi access, with a sluggish throughput, but I won't complain since it does exist.

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The previous Sriwijaya Air is still posted above the counter…

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… but some staff seem to be active and I take place in the line which starts appearing.

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It is a long wait, because processing each passenger, Indonesian and foreigner alike, is excruciatingly slow, for no obvious reason. But eventually, our two suitcases are tagged towards SUB in red on a white background, and Non valuable goods in white on a red background.
(the other tags are reminders that this suitcase made many trips on the bus between TPE and Taipei's central rail station).

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The beehive of the Air Aia and other low cost flights check in, behind the back of the staff who checked me in.

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Checking in as soon as possible was a good idea, because the line lengthened considerably behind me.

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Flight SJ234 is now posted above the counter.

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Our travel documents and BPs, which are of the department store receipt kind. No problem for having a window seat, but when he gives me all that, the staff tells me that the plane will be an hour late.

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In Indonesia, going airside means first paying the airport tax in cash. The fee for a domestic flight here is 35,000 IDR, or roughly 3 USD.

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And we reach this boarding area which is very noisy because there are lots of people, and a PA whose English version is unintelligible. I can only make out the name of the destination out of the jumble. There should be only one flight to SUB at that time – ours – but a Wings Air flight to SUB is an hour late too and has not left yet.

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It is nevertheless easy to find two contiguous seats, and they are more comfortable than the landside steel ones. I did not find a single power port.

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We chose seats which provide a view on the security check, which is nothing out of the ordinary.
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There is a lounge at each end of the room, to which we of course do not have access. I was not very interested by the shops: unescapable batik clothing, a bookstore with inevitable books on Borobudur,

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And this one which does not sell very risqué (olé-olé, in French slang) goods …

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… because oleh-oleh means souvenirs in Indonesian.

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The toilets are clean, but the technology of the flush is especially rustic:

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… and the urnals have an unusual anti-splash device in plexiglass

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I admit that this terminal is honorably spotter-friendly, because there are several kiosks covered with windows on three sides, providing a good view of the tarmac and of the planes which are parked close to the terminal. Some nocturnal plane spotting:

Lion Air 737, in special 80th aircraft livery

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Garuda CRK

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Time passes terribly slowly. It is 21:18 now, and flight SJ234 is still listed at 20:10, its normal schedule. Second call seems to mean This flight has already left in Indonesian, which is the case of flights GA217 and JT568.

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There is hope though, because I saw a Sriwijaya Air aircraft land in the distance. Two minutes later, the FIDS is updated: our flight is now officially the last one leaving JOG tonight, and it is recommended to go to the waiting room, which appears to mean Imminent boarding in Indonesian.

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… because another five minutes later, boarding starts. The staff checking the BPs give a paper bag of food from that crate.

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Boarding on foot, which provides me an opportunity to take pictures, using both front and rear doors.

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What a happiness to board at long last a plane whose name means Happiness !

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Il like the symmetrical arabesque of SJ's logo

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Going through the J cabin: two rows in 2+2 layout

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The Y cabin, en 3+3 layout like in any 737.

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Negligence or excessive rush? They did not clean my seat.

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The button for reclining the seat is damaged, but it is still operational

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… and the reclining is not negligible

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The seat pitch is OK.

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I mistakenly left my measuring tape in my checked luggage, so I used this A4 page to provide the scale and the price of our tickets: 1 465 400 rupiah, i.e. roughly 140 USD, once the travel agency fee is thrown in (the website of Sriwijaya Air is not advanced to the point of including online ticketing).

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Another view of the seat pitch, before all passengers have boarded. The plane will be about 80% full.

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There is no IFE, neither individual nor collective. Do we actually need one for a 264km flight (thanks to gcmap.com) ?

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This being a short flight, my wife gives me immediately her safety card for a double sided picture.

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The in-flight magazine is entirely in Indonesian.

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And like that of Garuda Indonesia, it contains a full page of prayers for a safe flight.

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A last attempt at night plane spotting with this Cityling A320 which will overnight there.

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Line up on Runway 27. It is 21:58, i.e. 1h48 behind schedule !

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Indonesia is an oil exporting country, but the lighting of its cities is limited.

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Since I cannot provide you a decent picture of Surakarta, the only significant city on the way,

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…this is the reactor

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… and the winglet, decorated with SJ's logo

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And what about the contents of the catering bags?

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The quantity is not much, but it is feeds you better than a cookie or a miniature bag of peanuts, on the condition that you like this kind of bread with a low quality chocolate stuffing.

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A detail of the water capsule

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Surprise: a FA goes up the aisle and distributes a bonus (and an extra glass of water if you ask for one):

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It is again in the lower quality section of chocolate cookies in your favorite department store.

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Descent towards Surabaya, the second largest Indonesian city behind Jakarta

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Arrival at the terminal at 22:35, i.e. 1h35 late. The neighbor, registered PK-CMC, is a 735

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The wing and the reactor

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L'éclairage du nom de l'aéroport aurait besoin d'un peu de réparation

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Surabaya has 3 million inhabitants, and double that if you include the urban area. A long walk airsiside in a spotless terminal.

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The luggage delivery room was nearly empty. I counted fewer than twenty passengers waiting there.

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Another long walk landside in the terminal in the opposite direction, in an equally spotless environment.

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And arrival at the foot of this staircase which is a lot more prestigious than the hotel at the top: the Ibis Budget.

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A staff rushes down immediately to handle the luggage trolley up the escalator.

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There is an unexpected X ray luggage safety check just before the reception of the hotel.

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The furnishing and the surface of the room are minimal, but the essential is there:

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No, not the sink and the shower, but the view on the tarmac (which is most probably the reason for the luggage security check at the entrance of the hotel) !

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With the plane which flew us here in the foreground

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It is slightly foggy in the wee hours of the morning, but the view is correct. Lion Air takes its appropriate share (that of the lion :-) in the traffic.

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There is a CX tail in the distance.

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… for on the other side of the runway lies Terminal 2 which handles Garuda, Air Asia, TigerAir Mandala, and all international flights.

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A Wings Air ATR72 and a Citylink A320 in the distance

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My wife had insisted for selecting this hotel, to be able to sleep as quickly as possible, actually, but the tarmac view was a strong argument for convincing me. Beware though that since this hotel has two parallel wings, only one room out of four has a tarmac view, and you of course should not have a flight at Terminal 2.

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Arrival of a Sriwijaya Air 737

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… which is going to park right in front of our bedroom

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Takeoff of a Wing Air ATR72, low cost subsidiary of also low cost Lion Air.

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Pushback of a 737 Trigana 737

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… which departs

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Garuda CRK

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A330 Garuda

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A Citilink A320 with sharklets

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… and another with winglets

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After this very early plane spotting activity, we leave the airport, not by plane but by car, leaving the spectacular Ibis Hotel staircase in the background…

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… to board a car which like the plane the night before was badly late because of traffic jams in Surabaya.

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Surabaya's airport is located in the county (kabupaten) of Sidoarjo, which became infamous on May 29, 2006. That day, a 2,800 m deep poorly managed gas exploration drill created a mud volcano. The flow of boiling hot mud reached up to 180 000 m3 / day, drowning many villages and fields and resulting in thousands of homeless refugees.

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This dike is among several which were erected in haste to contain the disaster,

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… protecting in particular this railroad track below.

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Although it is now safe, that school had already been destroyed by the mud.

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A few minutes of motorcycle taxi in a sterile expense of hardened mud,

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… and we reach the limits of this viscous lake, on an increasingly soft ground, like walking on a water bed.

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Every five to ten minutes, there would be a mud eruption in the distance, in that apocalyptic landscape.

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The pictures above were taken by me; I complement them with a few screenshots of the shaking amateur DVD sold by refugees on site, whose panoramic views are accompanied with a sad music reinforcing the perception of the immensity of the disaster.

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Wa can only see the top of the typically Javanese mosque, whose roof tiles have been recovered. All the rest of the building is buried under meters of hardened mud.

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The flow of mud has reduced considerably in the past eight years and may stop in a few years. The scientific controversy on what actually happened keeps going, on the background of claims which reach in the billions of dollars. It is already too late for the peasants of Sidoarjo: they lost everything, their houses, their belonging and their fields. The man-made Sidoarjo's airport had not brought them fortune; the man-made Sidoarjo's volcano caused their ruin.
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Verdict

Sriwijaya Air

6.5/10
Cabin6.5
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi5.5
Meal/catering6.0

Yogyakarta-Java Island - JOG

7.5/10
Efficiency6.0
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness9.0

Surabaya - SUB

9.5/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

A 50' flight which lands 1h35' late does not deserve better than a zero rating for punctuality, especially since the night was going to be a short one.
The comfort on board was OK, but the seat had not been cleaned; I hesitate about the catering: it is better than a cookie, on the other hand, the glass of water is minimal. No IFE, no newspaper, a not very interesting in-flight magazine. The FAs did their job decently.

This was my first flight on an airline on the UE's black list, which does not take punctuality and cleanliness into account. For 140 USD, including 5 USD travel agency fee, the quality-price ratio is poor for such a short flight. This FR, together with its French version and three reports in French by Darisinikesana props Sriwijaya Air above the four FR threshold for entering FR's rankings, down below : 180th out of 187 at time of posting this English version. This is severe, but I had no reason to improve its rating.

Uncomfortable wait landside and hardly better airside in JOG, because it was quite noisy. No power ports, but a wifi access. Check-in was very slow.
Quick delivery of the luggage in SUB, and an easy exit. SUB is served by an expressway which had no traffic the next morning.

Information on the route Yogyakarta-Java Island (JOG) Surabaya (SUB)

6 Comments

  • Comment 118749 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5307 Comments

    Now that is one exotic report! If it weren't for the crazy delay, and the dirty cabin, it would have been a halfway decent flight, but you are right about the value for the money seeming poor. Asia is definitely a place where you can get a lot of bang for your buck with Air travel...and this is not an example. Great plane spotting with some exotic birds (for Westerners anyway). Wow...I'd never heard of this mud volcano...how crazy and sad that it was man-made in a way. Very educational. Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 302198 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9566 Comments

      Not only Indonesia has lots of tiny airlines (of dubious financial health, serving unlikely places), but there are no significant restrictions on taking pictures, which is great for keeping a memory, and sharing them here. Thanks for your comment !

  • Comment 118772 by
    yapple 1 Comments

    Hi, thanks for sharing this report! I'm interested in reports of slightly obscure airlines so I was interested in this report. I took the exact same flight on the last day of February this year, only that I was on the full CGK-JOG-SUB sector. My flight was operated by the B737-500WL (and i thought that the 735 was scheduled for this flight- hence was abit surprised when i saw a B738 in your photo haha.) It seems as if this flight is rarely on time... Mine left CGK 25minutes late and arrived in Surabaya only 5 minutes late, so at least it wasn't that bad as yours!

    I flew in Business class though, but only because it was cheaper than an Economy ticket for some reason. Sat in Seat 1F but i thought the seat pitch was worse than other airline's economy class... Similarly, I stayed in the Ibis hotel at the airport upon arrival too! Haha it was relatively comfortable and i could do some planespotting too ;)

    Once again, nice report!

    • Comment 302197 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9566 Comments

      Interesting coincidence - thanks for letting me be the first to report on that hotel after that flight, haha !
      Thanks for your first comment on the website; I look forward towards reading your first report on an exotic airline :)

  • Comment 419930 by
    Eric V P SILVER 125 Comments

    Thank you for the report! I remember I had the chance to fly with them several times, which is why I got reminded of SJ when I read this report.

    Negligence or excessive rush? They did not clean my seat.
    - I would say Sriwijaya is almost like an LCC, which includes among them short turnaround time. Therefore, it's often quite difficult, if not impossible, to have the plane cleaned after every flight and fly again in 30 minutes.

    It is again in the lower quality section of chocolate cookies in you favorite department store.
    - If my memory served me well I also had that on another flight with Sriwijaya, but I somehow quite enjoyed it even though it's quite an affordable one. Perhaps because they're not too stingy with the milk chocolate filling?

    For 140 USD, including 5 USD travel agency fee, the quality-price ratio is poor for such a short flight.
    - You should try taking intercity train on first class (branded as executive class) instead, which will cost only a fraction of the flight. It's longer indeed at around 5 hours, but the ride should still be bearable and there are a lot of departures available throughout the day (including on midnight).

    • Comment 420643 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9566 Comments

      Three years later, it is difficult to say if there was a short turnaround time built into the schedule, or if they did away with the cleaning, due to the late arrival of the aircraft. What I do remember is that I would not have wanted to wait extra to fly in a thoroughly cleaned aircraft.

      I am a dark chocolate addict and frown upon any milk in the list of contents.

      My vacation had a somewhat tight schedule, but choosing to fly, and to fly SJ, was clearly an aviation geek option.

      Thanks for bringing back the memories of a good vacation !

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