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How-to Survive the Frustration of Indonesian Flights - GlobeSlice

Getting around the various parts of Indonesia isn’t all that easy. In fact, if you’re interested in exploring more than a couple of the islands that make up one of the world’s largest archipelagos, it can be a real pain. For me, this was all linked to one common frustration: Indonesian flights.

Here are a few of the biggest frustrations I experienced during my first time flying throughout Indonesia, along with a bit of advice to help you avoid similar pitfalls!

Purchasing tickets for Indonesian flights can be difficult…

This was my first sign that flying domestically here would be a bit of a challenge. When researching the cost of island hopping, I was initially very happy to see that Garuda Indonesia (the national carrier) and Lion Air (a budget carrier) both have websites that allowed me to purchase tickets with a credit card. Even better was that the tickets appeared to be relatively cheap!

Nice, no fuss, convenience. Just what I was looking for.

When it eventually came time for me to purchase tickets, I made my way to the Garuda web page, entered all of my information, and clicked the purchase button.

Indonesian Flights Garuda ErrorThinking that this might just be a temporary issue in the Garuda system, I tried again.

Indonesian Flights Garuda ErrorFine. If Garuda wants to be difficult, I’ll gladly head on over to Lion and fly with them instead…

Indonesian Flights Lion ErrorWell then, maybe it’s my credit card company blocking what must be overseas transactions? Nope. Because foreign charges on my account are more of the norm these days, due to my recent globetrotting, nothing was being blocked on their end.

It was about this time that I stumbled upon a long message board post stating a very similar issue. Towards the bottom, one insightful person explained that, for whatever reason, domestic airline websites do not accept American credit cards for Indonesian flights. What in the what…?

Frustrated but still determined, I gave Garuda’s main office a ring, thinking that they surely must be able to help me out, right? Not so much. Their payment system was down, so they recommended that I purchase through Tiket.com, an online Indonesian travel agency.

Overall their prices actually looked pretty good, with little to no extra commission cost! It may have required a few extra hoops to jump through, but at least everything was finally starting to sort itself ou-

Indonesian Flights Tiket ErrorOh come on!

My advice:

Eventually I came across the folks at Lombok Network Holidays, who were able to secure airline tickets for only a small fee. All communication is conveniently handled over email, with payment through PayPal, and e-tickets are delivered right to your inbox.

Care to roll the dice first though and try a few of the other ways to purchase tickets for Indonesian flights?

  • AirAsia has regular flights to many cities throughout Indonesia and will in fact take American credit cards!
    • Definitely a great option if you can swing it, though I found very few domestic options that didn’t require lengthy and/or international connections.
  • Many airlines here allow you to hold a ticket online and then pay via local ATM. Such a cool and convenient process!
    • I tried – I failed. After submitting my info via their website, I hightailed it to the nearest ATM and attempted to follow the instructions, but my payment would just not go through. 10+ different machines and multiple payment cards later, I still didn’t have my tickets.
  • Every city throughout Indonesia has a ton of local travel agencies which, in theory, can purchase tickets for you.
    • I tried this method twice. The first time I got a very shady vibe from the agent, so I opted not to hand over my payment and passport info. The second time, they were unable to get their payment to transfer over from the bank. “Come back tomorrow and we can try again.” Thanks but no thanks.
  • Some of the mid/upper tier hotels, especially around Bali, will purchase your airline tickets for a small fee.
    • Unfortunately this service wasn’t available where I was staying, so I can’t vouch for it. This will most likely mean going with a last minute flight, which can be a risky, as the more popular routes (Bali to Lombok for example) do tend to sell out during the high season.
  • Purchasing tickets at the airport is possible, but has technically been banned by the government.
    • The only time I was ever able to get someone from the airline to sell directly to me was after I had missed a flight, but more on that below…

Indonesian Flights Julian FrustratedLockdown your logistics for early morning Indonesian flights…

When making my way over to Bukit Lawang, I had to catch a 6am flight from Lombok. The idea of having to wake up this early had me stressing out, however I felt much better once the hotel owner assured me that she would be up in time to call a cab…

Jakarta Riding Rickshaw InteriorWell flash forward to 5am the next morning, where I’m sitting around a dark and empty hotel lobby in the middle of nowhere with nobody in sight. By the time I was able to get a ride to the airport, I had missed my flight and had to purchase a new $240 ticket at the airport for the following day. Ugh, that one still hurts…

My advice:

Whenever you’re traveling in a place where the local language isn’t your own, agreements like taxi calls can easily get lost in translation. Whenever possible, it’s always good to plan in some extra buffer time just in case, even if it’s only a couple of hours.

Sometimes though, like in this instance, an early flight just can’t be avoided. When this happens, try and stay as close to the airport as possible. Even better if you can arrange your own transport, or find somewhere with a 24h airport transfer.

Keep an eye out for disappearing flights…

Here I was at the Jakarta airport, waiting around for one of my connecting Indonesian flights. Being my super anxious self, I immediately found the gate I was supposedly departing from and plopped myself down in front of the nearest Departures status screen. Everything seemed fine with my flight at first – it was on time, I was at the correct gate, and I even had a couple of free hours to start going through pictures from some of my previous excursions.

This all sounded pretty good to me, so I opened up my laptop and started to go through everything.

Jakarta Bike Taxi RiderReaching a good stopping point, I glanced back up at the monitor to check on my flight’s status. Yep, everything looked to be on schedule and I still had a bit of time to kill. Not wanting to wander off too far, I looked around the general facility and noticed a Beard Papa’s cream puff stand a short stroll away.

Now, if there’s anything that will get me to wander out of my comfort zone, it’s a delicious cream puff. A quick analysis showed this to be a low risk/high reward move, so I grabbed my stuff and darted in line.

No more than 5 minutes later, I returned to my spot and once again looked at the arrivals screen. At a quick glance, everything seemed pretty much unchanged. Though as my eyes continued to scan the columns of text, something seemed off. There was something…missing.

Where was my flight?

I hustled over the nearest information desk and showed my boarding pass. What had happened? Where had my flight disappeared to? The person at the desk looked at my boarding pass like it was written in Martian.

“Not here. It is in the other boarding area sir. Screen error.”

Screen error? What in the holy hell does that mean? I didn’t have time to ponder this though, as my body was already in mid-lurch towards the direction of the nearest tram.

Indonesian Flights Julian TramBetween my long strides and the rather relaxed Indonesian airport security, I made it to this other area in no time. Screeching to a stop in front of the info counter, I once again presented my boarding pass and told them that I had been sent to this area.

The two women stared at the slip of paper also confused, then at me, then back at the slip. One began searching for something on her computer while the other picked-up the phone and began chatting in Bahasa. At this point I had no idea what was going on. Was my flight delayed or canceled? Did it ever really exist?

Eventually I was handed a new slip, for a new flight departing in 45 minutes. This one actually existed though…

Mount Rinjani Julian SelfieMy advice:

Cross your fingers and hope that this doesn’t happen to you maybe? Really this one’s kind of a wild card. All you can do is get to the airport with plenty of time and keep your eyes peeled for any last minute “screen errors.”

Dealing with domestic Indonesian flights can be super frustrating!

Make no mistake about it. This is a massive beautifully raw country that requires some extra patience and flexibility to fully explore. But that all pales in comparison to the many amazing experiences that Indonesia offers, so don’t let any of this deter you!

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