The desire to go to Yogyakarta for this year’s National Science Olympiad suddenly appeared when I was preparing for my exams. I had thought about it previously when I came back to Jakarta to train the students for the provincial selection, however that time I thought I would have flown from Jakarta instead. At the end, what happens is I am still stuck in Singapore due to unfinished URECA project (I know, totally my fault), and going from Singapore to Yogyakarta is not as easy cheap as going from Jakarta. But the desire was driving me to look for flights to Yogyakarta.
As a Garuda Indonesia loyal customer (read: loyal when their fare is cheap enough) I searched for their flights first which means going via Jakarta, but once again their fare was unreachable for cheapskate like me. I had another option via Jakarta with Lion Air, however I do not want to fly with Lion anymore after last time flying with them, on which their flight attendants did not give a single f*** to passengers who used his mobile phone throughout the flight to call his contacts. I was then left with one choice, going to Yogyakarta directly with AirAsia which was actually cheaper than Garuda and Lion but unflexible schedule (only once per day and not daily). I almost booked the flight when I suddenly remembered that my father visited me on last year’s Chinese New Year by flying from Bandung to Johor Bahru because the fare was unbelievably cheap. Yea, Bekasi to Singapore became Bandung (100 km from Bekasi) to Johor (30 km from NTU). I tried finding flight from Johor to Yogyakarta and there was one…. with cheaper fare! Singapore – Yogyakarta flight costed around $160 return while Johor Bahru – Yogyakarta costed $65 return. With all luxurious facilities Changi offers compared to Senai and easier access from NTU, $95 difference was too much and I decided to fly from Senai. As an avgeek, I love you Changi with all your beauties… but maybe not this time.
GOING TO SENAI
Distance-wise, Senai International Airport is actually closer to NTU than Changi International Airport even though NTU is in Singapore and Senai is still north of Johor Bahru downtown. This shows how isolated Pulau NTU is, Singaporeans may even need to bring their passports to enter NTU. Just kidding. However, I decided to take first bus from NTU even though Senai is not as far as people thought and my flight takes off at 12.15. I wanted to anticipate the probability of causeway linking Woodlands in Singapore and Johor Bahru being jammed, long queue at Malaysia checkpoint, and I did not know exact travel time from Johor Bahru downtown to Senai.
I left NTU at 6.30 and arrive at Kranji MRT station at 7.25. No, this time I will not joke about “I can go to Bekasi from here”. Then I took SBS 170 to Woodlands Checkpoint. Singapore checkpoint is never a problem since I have student pass, and then I took 170 again to cross the causeway. Turned out that Singapore – Johor traffic is quite empty while Johor – Singapore traffic was stunned like vegetable stuck like Jakarta, even some bus passengers decided to go out of bus and walk from causeway to Woodlands Checkpoint as the causeway is not that long.
Malaysia (in this case mostly AirAsia) has been trying to lure Singapore passengers away from Changi to Senai and KLIA, and one of their attempt is to provide free bus from checkpoint to Senai. Arriving at Sultan Iskandar CIQ (Johor Checkpoint), I rushed to immigration counter 18 as my complimentary Causeway Link bus ticket mentioned that I can enjoy fast track immigration by showing my AirAsia ticket there, however the officer told me I still have to go through regular immigration procedure. Leaving immigration, I rushed to bus stops as from the information on the internet the shuttle bus to Senai leaves every 2 hours starting from 6 AM and it was 7.55. Thankfully I still managed to catch the 8 AM bus. The bus runs the route from CIQ to JB Sentral (train station next to CIQ) and go straightly to Senai, and although I had to deroute back to JB Sentral first I can still arrive at Senai at 8.45. 2 hours 15 minutes of trip, around 30 minutes longer than trip to Changi.
SENAI AIRPORT FIRST IMPRESSION
I was welcomed by “Johor Airline” plane statue when first entering Senai Airport. It somehow reminded me of Supadio Airport (PNK) in Pontianak which has some kind of plane statue. Then a small blue building was seen and it was the airport. Compared to Indonesian airport, from outside Senai does not look like any; its small size is offset by clean and modern design. However when you go into the departure hall Senai looks like the old Ngurah Rai Airport (DPS) domestic terminal, but it was not crowded at all due to low number of flights. Flight destinations are mostly Kuala Lumpur (KLIA for AirAsia/MAS or Subang for Firefly) though some other Malaysian domestic destinations are also served with much lesser frequency.
The unique thing about this airport is both domestic and international flights are using the same waiting area; which is a bit strange but reasonable since Senai only serves non-daily international flights to Medan KNO, Bandung BDO, Yogyakarta JOG, Surabaya SUB, Lombok LOP, and Ho Chi Minh City SGN. Apart from that, there is actually nothing interesting from this airport. So let’s board the aircraft!
AK 492 / AXM 492
Origin: Johor Bahru Senai International Airport (JHB)
Destination: Yogyakarta Adisutjipto International Airport (JOG)
ETD : 12.15 MYT
ATD: 12.17 MYT
ETA: 13.30 WIT (Western Indonesian Time)
ATA: 13.28 WIT
Everything was on-time, as expected from a non-congested airport like Senai. It was a bit rainy at the departure time and very shaky when climbing until Singapore. I was lucky to be able to see Changi Airport from above though.
By research I found out that this JHB-JOG flight has existed for 1 year, yet I was curious why I got such a cheap fare. I guess that not many people actually fly this route, especially compared to SIN-JOG. I was expecting a low load factor, but at the end the load factor was higher than my expectation, around 60%; although my return JOG-JHB flight (which I will not be posting because of the similarity) barely reach 50%.
The thing that made me excited was food, as I had prebooked Mee Mamak and it was my first AirAsia meal purchase. I had read from several sources that AirAsia food is great, even better than Garuda. Mee Mamak then came with Teh Tarik, very Malaysian; and it did not disappoint me. Very tasty and easily beat Garuda’s Mie Goreng that I had last year onboard GA412.
It has been quite a long time since I fly for more than 2 hours (SIN-CGK and CGK-DPS are 1.5 hours), the last one was Istanbul Atatürk to Singapore 2 years ago. This time the schedule was 2 hours and 15 minutes and it felt quite long so I spent my time typing this post. I stopped typing when looking outside the window and see coastal line. Looking at the configuration, I guessed I was already in Cilacap and it was not far away from Jogja although it was only 1.5 hours from departure. My guess was right, but at the end the plane landed just in time because it had to fly around Wates for 3 times due to traffic congestion at JOG. Ah, at least I can see Merapi from above. As this was my first time flying to Jogja, it really amazed me to see the majestic Merapi.
Weather on arrival in Jogja was very clear, opposite of weather on departure in Johor, a good sign for my students in National Science Olympiad. I went inside the terminal building by walk and found out the airport was very congested. I had read several news about the urgency of new airport serving Jogja, and now I totally agree with it. It was not as small as Bandung’s Husein Sastranegara, but still it is handling passengers way more than its capacity. On the positive side, at least the officers are really warming and welcome, showing the humbleness of Jogja people. Then I became more excited of this Jogja trip.