How to get where you family needs to go with minimal stress? Which Indonesian airline is best suited to bringing the wife and kids?
Like Ross who when his family grew sacrificed his love of Jakartan public transport for Jakartan taxis, many people have to reconsider how they travel if they are bringing children, especially babies and toddlers.
But what about flying domestically in Indonesia, when you have a baby on board? Is family-friendly flying possible, and if so which airline is the most family-friendly?
We will look at some relevant issues below:
Parents are already paying extra to bring their children. Which airline has the most family-friendly pricing policy?
Children fly for less than adults, only on Citilink
All other airlines charge the same for adults and children. (And curiously, when booking some airlines online you still need to enter the child's date of birth, despite the fare being the same as for an adult.) You might have thought that this was because on more budget-oriented airlines (e.g. Air Asia, Lion Air) there are few or no in-flight services (e.g. free food) which are cheaper for kids. However, Citilink also only gives a plastic cup of water and a snack to each passenger, so maybe not.
Note also, this does not necessarily mean that Citilink will always have the cheapest fare for families; other airlines' adult price may be cheaper overall.
Being stuck in a crowded airport because the flight has been delayed is no fun, especially with children. Which airlines have the best record for punctuality?
This is hard to verify independently.
Mandala Air publishes its On-Time Performance here (last month 83%), and claims to be the first. Citilink used to publish its OTP on its homepage, but it was always 100% - seems unlikely - and has recently disappeared.
So, here is some general guidance: The younger the planes, the less likely there is to be a delay caused by plane issues or unscheduled maintenance. Next question: which airline has the youngest fleet of planes? Mandala Air's webpage used to invite passengers to fly on "the youngest armada" of aircraft, while Lion Air is the official "first to fly" airline of the Boeing 737-900ER. Garuda is ordering new Boeing 777 planes, but they will be used on international routes only.
Different airlines claim to have the newest planes
There are some impartial statistics at the Indonesian Inspector-General of Civil Aviation's domestic airline statistics page. It says when each plane in the airline's fleet was manufactured, etc. However, I can't vouch for how up to date they are.
However, it is not only the airlines' fault. Many of Indonesia's airports are operating above their intended capacity. For example, Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta airport had 37 million people fly to/from its airport last year; it's designed to handle a maximum of 22 million. Similarly, Surabaya's Juanda airport's capacity is 6.5 million passengers; it received 10.8 million last year.
Which airline offers the most complete facilities for families?
Garuda Indonesia wins this one because it is the only full-service airline. An added bonus: in Jakarta and Surabaya, passengers can also use the
less crowded nicer international terminal for domestic departures. For recently arrived passengers on international flights, this removes the need to change terminals.
However, even for Garuda there are some areas for improvement. It doesn't offer baby bassinets on domestic flights; maybe that's not so much a problem for e.g. Surabaya to Denpasar (50 minutes), but it would be on e.g. Jakarta to Manado (3 hours 10 minutes) or Jakarta to Jayapura (over six hours, overnight). And in my experience, Garuda is also the only airline that makes passengers place their prams/strollers in checked baggage when checking in, rather than at the departure gate.
At the other end of the scale, Air Asia and Mandala Air now operate from the new Low-Cost Carrier Terminal 3 in Jakarta. While Terminal 1 has air-bridges for some flights, Terminal 3 doesn't; all passengers must walk upstairs to enter the plane; this may not be so nice with small children, especially in inclement weather.
Having your baggage damaged or lost is no fun, especially with children. Who has the best or worst record?
Again, it is difficult to accurately verify or make impartial judgments.
My extended family and I have had the following negative experiences, over the years:
United Breaks Guitars, Lion Doesn't; Lion Breaks Prams Instead
However, it's not all bad news.
As long as any complaint is resolved competently and quickly, that is probably just as important. Lion Air couldn't help with the broken pram, but what was more annoying was there no form or way of reporting the damage; the ground crew just suggested leaving it there for them to repair (when it was clearly irreparable).
You aren't going to bring your family on an unsafe airline. Which airline has the best safety record?
This area is discussed in more detail here, so this is the short version.
These airlines are currently permitted to fly in EU airspace:
However, this doesn't necessarily mean the other airlines are unsafe, nor that you are guaranteed an incident-free flight on one of the five above.
I have personally flown on all of the airlines listed above, and do not have any major concerns about the safety of any of them.
But this is just the author's opinion and experience; maybe yours are different.
Which airline would you say is Indonesia's most family friendly? Please add a comment with your vote and a reason why.
Questions on the topic are also welcome.