Having lived in Singapore and now based in Jakarta, the flight between this 2 cities is perhaps the one I take the most often in my life. This route was served by many carriers as a fifth freedom flight and I have had the pleasure of experiencing European airlines service from Lufthansa and Air France. Needless to say, I have also taken flights on Singapore Airlines and Garuda Indonesia, both with the most frequencies and capacities for this route. Since the turn of the millennium, there was a growth in the number of budget airlines operating A320s like Jetstar, Valuair (acquired by Jetstar), Lion Air, Air Asia, Mandala (now liquidated) and of course Tiger Air.
Due to a bad experience with Air Asia, I have more or less given up of flying with low cost carriers. With a little bit of searching and arbitrage, I do find flying with Garuda and Singapore Airlines would provide the best value for a frequent traveller as myself. However in this instance, I was travelling during the peak Hari Raya period where the whole of Indonesia is off from work for the week. A last minute trip meant I was limited for choices and Tiger Air was the one still having affordable tickets left, with this one-way flight costing me IDR1,750,000 (~$130). Normally this would be the cost for a one-way with Garuda, so yes this is expensive for a ‘budget’ flight.
Flights with Tiger Air (now rebranded as Scoot) departs out of Terminal 2 in Jakarta and I was just glad the queue for check-in was not as long as the one in Air Asia’s counter. Tiger Air charges passengers everything from checked luggage to seat assignments. Expecting a full flight, I paid extra for assigning seats as I was flying with family members. However we each had our own hand-carry luggage plus a small laptop bag/handbag for the ladies. From the check-in, it was off to clear immigration and get some brunch before our flight. Many Indonesian credit cards offer lounge access or provides for free beverages and snacks at the airport. I was able to get a free meal with drink at the Old Town Restaurant, which is a Malaysian coffee shop serving dishes like Nasi Lemak, noodles and Kaya toast.
After the average meal at the airport, it was time to proceed for security to get to the boarding gates. Having gone through CGK multiple times, I timed it just right that by the time we were at the boarding gates, it was time to head to the plane. Normally I am not in a rush to board but since everyone of us has a hand-carried luggage, we made sure to be amongst the first to board.
TR2279 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta CGK – Singapore Changi SIN
Airbus A320 9V-TRX
Gate Seat 10D
Once inside the black and white feel of the plane sure indicates the ‘low cost’ carrier that we are taking. Fortunately there was enough space overhead for our hand-carried luggages and with that we were seated on row 10. It was only after being seated that I notice the really tight pitch of the seat. Even for someone of average height (~1.75m) it was borderline uncomfortable. For flights less than 2 hours I think I can bear with it, but any longer and I rather not fly at all.
Do not expect any inflight entertainment screen here either since it is a low cost carrier. On the seatback pockets, there was an inflight magazine, a buy-onboard menu and a catalog selling some Tiger Air trinkets.
While the amenities are somewhat lacking, I found the crew onboard Tiger Air to be young and very helpful. Many were assisting with the placement of luggage which I assume was to hasten the boarding process. Since passengers need to pay for checked luggage, there are obviously more passengers hand carrying their luggage onboard. However the assistance by the crew meant we were still able to pullback early and take-off on time.
Once the fight reached cruising altitude, there was no service until the crew went around with the trolleys offering buy-on-board items. My siblings travelling with me bought a pack of cup noodles to share but I made a good call in purchasing bottled water from the airport instead of paying S$5 (~$4) for a small bottle of water.
After the sales pitch for snacks and drinks, there was another round of sales for duty free items and Tiger Air souvenirs. Even for a full flight, I felt the sales of snacks, beverages and souvenirs are quite limited due to the short flight.
Luckily for me, the fine weather and quick departure meant we landed in Singapore on time and made our way efficiently into Changi Airport Terminal 2. Flying with a low cost carrier meant it forced us to pack light and that sped things up in not requiring to wait for checked luggage. However there was a slight wait for immigration at Terminal 2, thus in the end we still left the terminal with roughly the same duration if we had checked luggage.
Considering the tight legroom in these A320s, the added costs of choosing seats and paying for meals and drinks meant that flying with a full-service carrier might still be my choice especially since I have Sky Priority status flying with Sky Team carriers. As such, I do not foresee myself flying on low cost carriers regularly.