You have probably heard the airline Lion Air, which took the news headlines a few months ago due to severe delay cases in the majority of their flights, causing a lot of grief for passengers who could not fly on the day of their scheduled flight, just around the busy Chinese New Year time.
The Lion Air is owned by the Lion Group. Only few people know that the Lion Group also owns a few different airlines, with differentiations in target market segments and flight routes. The airlines under Lion Group are Lion Air, Wings Air, Batik Air and Malindo. Each one of them serves different routes and caters to different target market segments.
A few weeks ago, from 30 April through 3 May 2015, I went on a trip to the eastern part of Java, visiting the cities of Banyuwangi and Surabaya. On this trip I had the chance to experience the three different airlines of the Lion Group. As a result, I had different perceptions about them that I’m sharing to my friends now for their information.
Leaving from Jakarta on Lion Air flight JT 748, we were scheduled to take off at exactly 6 am. The day before the flight I tried to do online check-in, but I failed. I even downloaded the Lion Air app on my iPhone hoping that it would be better, but I could not do it either with the app so I had to check in at the airport.
I arrived at the airport at terminal 1A around 4.30 am and immediately went to the check-in counter. At that time, there were three of my friends who had managed to complete the check in process and were waiting in the check in area.
There were other friends of mine who arrived at the airport not long after I did, so we checked in the flight together. There were six of us with two booking codes. I gave the check-in counter lady the ticket print out and my identification card. After a while, she returned my ID, but the check-in process went for a long time. Finally, she told us that she could not find our names on the computer; we were not registered in the system.
I was very surprised because two of my friends who came earlier than I did had managed to get their boarding passes with the same booking code. The check-in counter officer left us to go to Lion Air office for further checking. After about 15 minutes, she had not come back so I went after her. In the office, the lady was waiting for another staff to check the tickets. When I asked her what I should do she replied she didn’t now either.
When I went out of the room, there were people waiting for standby tickets. Some of them were saying if there were tickets available for 12 people they would take them. I was worried our seats would be sold out so I followed the check-in counter lady asking what the solution for us would be. I was quite annoyed because the handling took so long and time was running out. Finally, she said she would do “inside check-in”, and then she went inside, I don’t know where. While I was waiting, there were two friends who arrived at the airport and checked in at different counter and succeeded in getting their boarding passes. Finally, close to 6 am she came back with our boarding passes. We immediately rushed to the gate because it was already time for boarding. Very annoying and unprofessional, I thought.
Another annoyance was when the bags we brought to the cabin had to be tagged, we were not allowed to attach the tags ourselves. The tags had to be attached by a Lion Air officer, which obviously lengthen the whole process although we were in a rush.
Aboard the plane, the service is quite standard for a budget airline. During the flight no meals, neither food nor drinks, were served. The seats were rather worn. There was no in flight entertainment either. Good thing that I slept through the flight because I was sleepy from waking up very early to catch this flight, and I only woke up when it was time to land.
When we arrived the Djuanda airport in Surabaya, we went to the transfer counter to change our boarding pass to Banyuwangi. We didn’t have to pick up our luggage because they were sent straight to Banyuwangi. For your info, the baggage weight allowance for economy class on Lion Air is 20 kg, for Wings Air 10 kg and for Batik Air 20 kg as well.
After getting our Wings Air boarding passes, we went for breakfast and rest in the Djuanda airport area.
Around 11.15 am, we went to the gate for boarding. 15 minutes later we were boarding. We walked down to the airplane as being a small plane, no telescopic air bridge were available for it.
Our flight number was IW 1880. This Wings Air plane had propeller engines with smaller passenger capacity. The ceiling was lower than your typical jet plane so you have to watch out. The passenger in front of me was hurt because his head hit the baggage compartment. There were two rows of seats, two seats on the left side and two seats on the right side. The seats on the left were seats A and C, and on the right side were D and F. I lost a bet with a friend because of this, hahaha… I hope he forget about it, haha…
The aircraft condition was very good, maybe because it was relatively new. The space between one seat to another was actually roomier than on the Lion Air plane. However, the lavatory was not so good and there was only one of them in the back of the airplane.
During the flight the sound of the engine was quite loud, but the pilot handled the plane very well, I was not scared or worried on this flight. There were no meals or entertainment either. The flight time from Surabaya to Banyuwangi was 50 minutes.
Everything went smoothly, or so I thought, until it was time to pick up our luggage. After all the baggage was delivered to the passengers to pick up, there was one piece of luggage missing. The luggage belonged to a friend who checked in the first in Jakarta.
The investigation took a while; I wasn’t there to watch. After checking, he was told that the luggage was still in Surabaya and could only be flown to Banyuwangi the next day due to limited number of flights to Banyuwangi. So that friend of ours had to purchase clothes, underwear and all daily needs. Another disappointment from Lion Group ground handling crew be it from Lion or Wings. Fortunately, the baggage did come to the address we stayed in Banyuwangi the next day.
My third experience with the airline of Lion Group on this trip was when we came back to Jakarta, from Surabaya on 3 May 2015 on Batik Air flight number ID 6579. We were scheduled to leave Surabaya on 17:30 and arrived in Jakarta at 19:00.
We came to the Djuanda airport at 16:00 and directly went to the check-in counter. All the documents required were collected and processed immediately. It took time to process but it was understandable because there were 12 passengers in our group with a total of 17 pieces of luggage. It was also much quicker than the check-in at Lion Air counter in Jakarta. We were allowed to attach our own cabin tag. The fragile sticker were given generously, unlike with Lion Air in Jakarta.
After leaving the check-in counter, we were thinking of going to the lounge first. However, since time was already 15 minutes to 5, we decided to go directly to the gate. That was a wise decision. As soon as we got there, we were called for boarding. We boarded through a telescopic air bridge.
My first impression was the flight attendants. They seemed experienced and looked professional, much like Garuda flight attendants, although some were young.
The seats were nice, cushy and in good condition. And they got entertainment on board! We were also provided with drinks and snacks. The lavatories were better and more comfortable compared to those in Lion and Wings. Sorry i don’t have much picture on it.
The plane took off on time, and landed few minutes before the scheduled time. In the air, the copilot was giving information about the flight. The tickets for Batik Air were around Rp.150K to 200K more expensive than Lion, but I think it was worth it. Batik Air is a member of Lion Group which was designated for their premium customers, therefore a more expensive tickets and better service.
So based on my experienced using these three airline members of Lion Group, Batik Air was definitely the best, then Wings Air even though it was a propeller-engine plane, and the last was Lion Air.
Someday I hope to try Malindo Air, which is also an airline belonging to Lion Group but for international flights.
Give these airlines a try yourself.