Tried & Tested

Lion Air B737-900ER Business

30 Sep 2012

BACKGROUND Lion Air has been flying since 2000. The airline is expanding quickly in terms of both aircraft procurement and additional new routes – it is the largest operator of Boeing 737-900ER aircraft. Currently it only flies in Southeast Asia, with the majority of routes concentrated within Indonesia. 

CHECK-IN My flight – JT741 – bound for Bali-Denpasar (with a stop-off in Makassar) was scheduled to depart at 0645 and since it was a domestic flight from a domestic airport I thought arriving two hours prior to departure would be unnecessary, so I chose to arrive an hour and 15 minutes before the scheduled flight time. Despite the early morning departure, the airport was relatively busy. There was no dedicated business class check-in counter and no priority check-in – at least not at that time in the morning – but there were also no queues so I checked in without trouble.

THE LOUNGE There is no Lion Air lounge at this airport, however for a fee of Rp60,000 (US$6.4) there is a pay-in lounge where you can enjoy refreshments such as water, coffee and tea, and light food items like sandwiches and the Indonesian favourites nasi goreng and nasi campur. Complimentary wifi is also available in this lounge. The lounge was simple but very clean, and the extremely bright lighting and friendly staff service ensured that I didn’t fall asleep and miss my flight.

BOARDING A short walk from the lounge and I was at the gate. Again there was no business class boarding channel or priority boarding so this was slightly chaotic, but not uncomfortably so. There were clear boarding announcements in both English and Bahasa and we all boarded the plane swiftly and took off just 10 minutes after scheduled departure time. The fact that we could board via aerobridge was most welcome, as getting to the plane via airport bus is one of my particular dislikes.

THE SEAT There are only 10 business class seats available on this Boeing so it is quite an easy seating procedure. There were only three other people in business class on this flight, and I could happily sit back in my window seat and enjoy a morning snooze before the Makassar stop-off. Since this is a new fleet and a relatively new airline, everything felt fresh, clean and of a high quality – I got the impression this is an airline that is investing in its future. The red leather seats offered legroom of 38 inches (96cm) and were extremely comfortable, reclining by a considerable amount for a domestic flight.

THE FLIGHT Despite the fact that I seemed to be the only Western face on the plane, there was a clear announcement before take-off in English as well as Bahasa. Apart from reading every single English newspaper I could get my hands on prior to boarding and, of course sleeping, there wasn’t much to do to pass time. There is no in-flight entertainment (IFE), and no reading material on board aside from the in-flight magazine, which contains no English language content – the pictures provided about two minutes of entertainment value for me.

There is also no substantial meal during this flight, although the lovely in-flight team offered me drinks (tea, coffee, orange juice, water or coke) and a snack, which was a slice of sponge cake and an Indonesian pain-au-chocolat. It did the job and the early morning hunger pangs subsided as we waited at Makassar for some passengers to disembark and others to join the Makassar-Denpasar leg.

I had a particularly excellent view of the baggage handlers, since I was in window seat 2A, and I was happy to see how carefully they handled all the baggage, checking that all the cases and various other items were bound for their correct destination. We all stayed on board as the plane was being cleaned, two batches of new passengers boarded, all bags were stowed and in just over an hour we were on our way to Bali.

ARRIVAL After a great take-off and relatively smooth flight, we experienced a somewhat bumpy landing at Bali-Denpasar, touching down at 1100, 30 minutes later than the scheduled arrival time. A speedy disembarkation meant I was through immigration and at the carousel within 15 minutes, and a further 15 minutes later my luggage appeared. Landside the airport was extremely chaotic due to major renovation work, but I hustled my way through and was soon negotiating a price with a taxi driver for the ride to my hotel.

VERDICT Following in the steps of AirAsia, Lion Air delivers an affordable travel option in Southeast Asia, particularly on Indonesian routes. The level of service offered by the crew really stood out for me, and despite the lack of IFE and meals, I would certainly fly with them again.

Fact File 

  • PLANE TYPE Boeing 737-900ER
  • SEAT WIDTH 17in/43cm
  • SEAT PITCH 38in/96.5cm
  • PRICE The internet rate for a one-way flexible business class ticket in mid-November costs Rp2,095,000 (US$219)

Charlotte Bliss

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