A comparison of Indonesian airlines' online booking websites.
Slowly but surely, Indonesian airlines have joined the
1990s 21st century and introduced online booking on their websites along with e-ticketing.
This offers a number of advantages to prospective customers/travellers, particularly in Indonesia:
- Tickets can be purchased 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People with day jobs don't have to take time off or rush after work to visit a travel agent; unfortunately, it seems travel agents rarely have email and are often "online", which in Indonesia means on the phone. Now, people can book tickets at their convenience.
- Handily for expats, computers are colour-blind, i.e. they do not discriminate on the colour of the customer's skin. Sometimes, foreigners will receive a higher "tourist price" from the travel agent.
- It is great for last-minute travel or early-bird specials. And unlike travel agencies, there are no delays for lunch breaks, systems being offline, power blackouts, prayer times, traffic jams, etc..
However, there are some limitations to online booking:
Perhaps to reduce fraud, many airlines only accept Indonesian-issued credit cards, not foreign ones. (Curiously, many foreign countries/companies do the opposite, and do not accept Indonesian fantastic plastic; Paypal is one recent exception). Also, the name on the credit card must match the name of the passenger, i.e. you can't buy tickets for somebody else unless you are travelling with them. However, on some airlines you can now buy tickets for a friend by booking online then paying at an ATM, assuming of course you have an Indonesian bank account. In that case, you don't type in the booking number (ATMs aren't usually alphanumeric), but a 13-digit payment code that comes with the booking.
You often need to pre-register, which can be a long and difficult process, especially if you don't speak Indonesian.
Ticket saving and re-printing
Despite one of the aims of e-ticketing being to eliminate paper tickets and problems with losing them, Indonesian check-in staff often want to keep a copy of your flight itinerary on each leg of your journey. (Don't try showing up at the airport without one, as you won't get past security at the airport terminal entrance without it and some photo ID). As such, it can be handy if you can save and re-print e-tickets after the original purchase at short notice.
Hence, this general guide to booking flights online for Indonesian flights. I have considered the three areas above, and some other criteria before making an overall rating.
Below are just the airline's names and ratings; they are in alphabetical order, not order of merit. You can then either click on an airline's "Read why" to find out more, or just continue scrolling down to read them all. (Please note: this table rates the booking experience; please see here for ratings of the actual flight experience.)
(Last updated: December 2011)
Of the smaller airlines, only Trigana Air has e-ticketing. This is especially useful for flights to Pangkalan Bun to see orangutans in Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan.
Payment methods: Credit card, Indonesian and international; klikBCA
Pre-registration: Yes, easy
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, easy
As Air Asia receives almost all bookings over the Internet, you would expect that its website is easy to use, and usually it is. Air Asia is the only airline where you can book and pay for others by credit card (i.e. the passenger's name doesn't have to match the one on the credit card). It's easy enough to get a fare quote, but not so easy to work out the final price including extra fees like for baggage, meals, seat selection, insurance, etc. That also makes it one of the longest and slowest to book. But at the end, you receive an email with your full itinerary after booking and payment as a pdf. A couple of years ago, people complained to "The Jakarta Post" of their bookings having "disappeared" between purchase and check-in, and being denied boarding despite their credit card still being charged; however, this issue seems to have been resolved.
Payment methods: Credit card, Indonesian only; AMEX; KlikBCA; Paypal
Pre-registration: Yes, ok
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, not easy
Batavia Air is not suitable for last-minute booking, as it requires a booking period of at least 48 hours; the website says it's to allow for the credit card transaction to clear (although other airlines don't need as long). Receiving fare quotes isn't difficult, although sometimes the website's fare generator will give an error message instead of "No flights on this day" or "Sold out". You are asked to name your location and preferred language when you open the page; if you don't select "Indonesia" you will get quotes in $US instead of Rp, and you will often be charged MORE. Batavia is now the only airline to accept payment via American Express, perhaps only Indonesian-issued AMEX cards though. It also now accepts Paypal, but only for $US payments and can be more expensive this way, too.
Payment methods: Credit card, Indonesian; ATM
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, ok
Citilink is a small airline based in Surabaya, but is slowly growing and recently launched more flights originating from Jakarta. It's website is fairly simple to use. The initial quote does not include taxes and charges, which is annoying; the final price only comes in step 3. Curiously, it recently ceased offering payment by klikBCA.
Payment methods: Credit card, Indonesian and some Asia-Pacific countries; klikBCA; Mandiri ClickPay
Pre-registration: Yes, difficult
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, difficult
Until recently, "online booking" at Garuda Indonesia meant reservations by phone, and - while its new look is an improvement - their new system is still behind its peers in terms of simplicity and ease of use. Registering and booking flights are difficult, due to all the options of flights etc. not being visible at the one time. Also, the Garuda-generated username is impossible to remember (requiring a copy and paste from your email program). Unlike phone booking, you cannot reserve online and pay later at the ATM. Currently it is only available for domestic flights and credit cards from these countries: Indonesia, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea, although some people have reported problems with this on online forums like FlyerTalk. Eventually, Garuda published an apology on their website.
Payment methods: Credit card - Indonesian, ATM, Online Banking (Mandiri, Niaga, BNI, klikBCA)
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, easy
Lion Air is one of the easiest for booking and has many payment options too. You can now re-print tickets via the website by entering the passenger's name and booking code. Unfortunately, there is currently no way to pre-register, so you have to write all your details every time you book a ticket; best you use a browser like Mozilla Firefox that remembers these details for next time. However, unlike Garuda, you can book international tickets online (to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur) in Rp and not $US.
Payment methods: Credit card only
Ticket saving and reprinting: No
Payment methods: Credit card - Indonesian; klikBCA; Mandiri
Pre-registration: Optional, in Indonesian
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, easy
Over time, this website has improved markedly. It doesn't look very visually appealing, but it is functional and relatively easy to follow. Unlike before, you can now book and pay online. You can also easily re-print your itinerary via the "My Booking" page.
Payment methods: Credit card, Indonesian only; klikBCA; ATM BCA, BRI, BNI
Pre-registration: Optional, not easy
Ticket saving and reprinting: Yes, easy
Sriwijaya Air joined the world of online booking relatively recently. Their site is easy enough to understand/use, but it's nothing special. Payment options were few at first, but are increasingly slowly. You receive an email with your e-ticket almost instantly after you pay, unlike e.g. Lion Air or Citilink where you can wait an hour or longer. You can save your details for next time, but for some email addresses are too long and won't work. Originally, the e-tickets didn't look very nice, but have improved recently.
What have your experiences of online booking been? Please share them with other readers - the good, the bad and the ugly. I would also appreciate any updates or corrections; I last made some in September 2012.
(Of course, the Internet is subject to change and as such the information and ratings provided are only correct at the time or writing.)
wow, thanks for this review.
Last year I tried to buy domestic flight tickets from AirAsia from their website with no luck – they keep rejecting my cc – perhaps because it is issued overseas? Anyway, it appears their website is improving a lot. Hopefully the rest will follow..
Hi Pena Budaya,
Last year I tried to buy domestic flight tickets from AirAsia from their website with no luck – they keep rejecting my cc – perhaps because it is issued overseas?
Yeah, AA website not accepting an international credit card seems the most likely explanation. However – as AA is an international airline – it makes me wonder how they accept payment for passengers from other countries…
Maybe the international banks that issued those credit cards have been demoted to junk status.
Have booked numerous flights with Airasia from Malaysia, Indo, Thailand and Laos and never had a problem with my credit cards.
Maybe ur wife maxed it out on you!!!
Last March I tried from Germany to reserve a flight with Citilink (“enjoy simplicity) from Jakarta to Surabaya and back. They didn’t accept my credit card, so my brother in Jakarta bought the tickets for me. Pretty problems for foreigner to plan their travell in Indonesia, hmm?
On their homepage they wrote that the free bagage was 15 kg plus cabin bag.
At the check in desk they told me that the limit was 10 kg and ask me to pay for the 5 kg. After some “friendly” words from me they at the end of the clownery they resigned the fee for the “overweight”.
That wasn’t all: my flight back to Jakarta was delayed for about 3 hours, they told me they have informed all of the passengers at the previous day, only me not. Allthough they had the number of my mobile phone. At the end I took the flight 3 hours later with a compromise of a free bagage (about 5 kg overweight). I have to cancel some important dates in Jakarta because I left Indonesia the next day.
I’m sure I wouldn’t fly again with Citilink. The next time I will try the service of Mandala or Air Asia.
I think you’re mistaken about Merpati.
You CANNOT pay for your Merpati ticket using credit cards or ATMs.
You can only ‘book’ and afterwards they’ll email you the booking code.
You’ll then take the boooking code and pay for it at a travel agent.
Naah..if it is maxed out then it will be me who maxed it out..
My partner and I have separate cc. Both of us have own income and we tried to collect air miles separetly from our cc.
BTW, talking about air-miles, perhaps Indonesian airlines should have air-miles offered to their customers. My KLM airmiles & Asia miles – from Cathay Pacific are having quite interesting offers, such as free tickets or ticket discount. Do they have such air-miles program yet?
Thanks for your feedback.
To answer your comments regarding Merpati payment methods:
Payment via Internet
I haven’t bought a ticket on the Merpati website recently so I can’t be 100% sure, but with phrases on it like:
Era baru layanan transaksi online via Internet
it certainly sounds like they now offer online booking and payment via credit card. Perhaps it is one of those times where they say they offer it, but in reality they don’t.
Payment via ATM
I agree that Merpati doesn’t offer payment via ATM, and my article doesn’t say they do.
Hi Pena Budaya,
Thanks for your question. I plan to discuss Indonesian airline frequent flyer schemes in a future article, but here is the short version.
Garuda has the most popular/established frequent flyer program (Garuda Frequent Flyer) but has no other airline partners, just rumours that it will join Skyteam and codeshares on Malaysia Airlines, Korean Air, etc.
Other Indonesian domestic airlines to offer frequent flyer schemes are:
Lion Air (Lion Passport)
Merpati (Easy Flyer)
Sriwijaya Air (Frequent Flyer)
Indonesian airlines also generate brand loyalty in other ways, like branded credit cards. Air Asia has one with HSBC (see here), Garuda with Citibank (see here), and Lion with BII (see here). The latter two probably feed points directly into their respective frequent flyer programs.
If I remember correctly, the Garuda is like a platinum credit card and requires a minimum annual salary of Rp100 million (and it used to be Rp200 million!). The other two probably aren’t that exclusive.
Hi Righteous Dude,
I called Merpati last week (was buying a Jkt-Denpasar ticket) and they told me I can’t pay using CC or ATMs.
You can however ‘book’ a ticket on their website, and they’ll send you a confirmation email with a booking code included.
You’re then supposed to take that booking code to a travel agent, pay and pick up your ticket there.
The system works like Lion Air’s circa 2007.
Oops sorry, I mentioned the ATMs again.
You’re right, you didn’t mentioned payment thru ATMs.
Merpati website says
Just Info Web Under construction…?
Dear customer, please call branch office or travel agent closest your city to carry out the booking transaction and reserva-tion. thank you.
I expect they’ll get the under-construction business sorted out sometime in 2011…
Under that bit it says
Just Click, visit http://www.merpati.co.idunder construction
After some “adventures” to and from Pontianak, you couldn’t pay me enough to fly Lion or Sriwijaya again…
I’ve bought tickets through Lion Air online with an Australian credit card before, and had no problems with the transactions.
The only problem has been turning up and finding out I’m actually flying WingsAir, on one of their awful small-old planes, rather than LionAir!
Thanks for your comments.
Regarding the Lion/Wings Air confusion, it usually says whether it is operated by Lion Air or Wings Air on the right-hand side of the table of Step 2 . I would like to show you a PrintScreen of what I mean, but the website is down as I type this.
Generally speaking, these days Wings Air do the less popular routes, or cover any gaps caused by flight delays/re-timings or cancellations. I once had the opposite happen to me (i.e. ended up on Lion Air and not Wings) going from Jakarta to Surabaya, but that was because two half-full flights got merged into one. Having said that, the merged flight departed an hour late.
Yes, Wings Air planes are older, but I swear the Lion Air B737-900s have the least leg room of any plane I have ever travelled on!
So which airline could you recommend for someone coming from europe in Cengkareng and wants to fly further to Surabaya or Bali?
Why not starting a poolling?
I would personally try to fly from Europe on an Asian airline that flies or codeshares to each of those cities. Then – if your ticket allows it – you can fly e.g. to Jakarta going there then e.g. from Denpasar coming back. That way, you only have to buy a one-way fare rather than a return.
The following airlines fly to all 3 cities you mentioned: Singapore Airlines (codeshare on regional affiliate Silk Air to Surabaya), Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific.
The following airlines fly to Jakarta and Denpasar only: Thai Air, Qatar Airways.
As for which airline within Indonesia, almost every airline fly from Jakarta to Surabaya and Denpasar. So choosing an airline depends what you’re looking for. If you want to book your flights using an international credit card, see above which airlines will accept it. Remember you will pay extra for baggage before booking on Air Asia or Citilink. If you want more comfort, consider Garuda. If you want a newer plane, consider Garuda, Mandala or Lion Air.
However, the most important thing is to not miss your connecting international flight. Make sure you leave a few hours spare for delays, changing terminals, checking-in, etc.
The discount airlines are like flying in a Kopaja, or if you’re lucky, maybe an old, dented Patas. Garuda, at least, is a Blue Bird…
RD, thanks for this informative thread.
“However, the most important thing is to not miss your connecting international flight. Make sure you leave a few hours spare for delays, changing terminals, checking-in, etc.”
And to have energy to argue with some incompetent ground crew.
Odinius, are you sure Garuda? Isn’t Garuda still in the international black list?
All of Indonesia’s airlines are on the EU’s blacklist. Then again, if you want to get somewhere in Indonesia and cannot take the bus, book a flight.
Buses and even trains have more accidents than planes anyway.
So, relax, enjoy your flight!
Air Asia are stopping all their domestic services, going international only from 19 August 2009, it seems Air Asia Tutup Layanan Domestik. But they’re still offering seats online after that date so….
Incidentally I really like the picture on their front page
Hi – when in Indonesia recently we flew with Pelita airlines from Maumere, Flores to Denpasar (via labuan bajo).
We had no problems with the flight at all. Now wishing to return to Flores in late October and want to book domestic leg of our flight (Denpasar-Maumere return) with this airline again. Their website doesn’t even list their flight schedule! Any suggestions as to how I can book with them before departing Australia? Got any current inside goss on this airline? Not at all keen to fly with Marpati which seems to be the only other airline offering this particular route.
Thanks for your enquiry. I hope my answer isn’t too late. (Perhaps next time for an urgent query you could PM me too). Here are some thoughts based on your question and my experience:
- I had a similar problem on my recent trip to Flores when booking flights. It seems to be that according to Mandala/TransNusa there are no more flights between Labuan Bajo to Denpasar.
On the way there, I flew Mandala to Kupang (from Jakarta via Surabaya) on Mandala, then TransNusa – I booked it through the Mandala website too, but as a separate flight – to Maumere. However, as we couldn’t get a flight out of Labuan Bajo to anywhere, we then had to drive all the way back to Maumere, and fly to Denpasar on Merpati.
I was travelling with an international flight who had to fly out by a certain day/time, otherwise we might have tried just going to Labuan Bajo’s airport and getting the next available flight. If I had known there were also TransNusa flights to Kupang from Ruteng and Bajawa, we might have flown from there instead.
- While in Maumere we visited the Pelita ticket office. They listed flights from Maumere to Denpasar, Labuan Bajo, Ende and Kupang.
- Garuda now flies Jakarta/Denpasar to Kupang (the hub for flights in the region) too, so that’s another choice for travelling in style/comfort.
- Unlike the TransNusa flight, Merpati is a Fokker 100 with jet engines. The TransNusa flight (a Riau Airlines plane) was a Fokker 50 with propellors.
- Airport websites are a good source of information about who flies where, as is Wikipedia for smaller airports, though it may be a little dated. The site for Labuan Bajo’s airport is here. There are links to the major airport websites in my article about airport toilets here.
Just made a booking with Citilink yesterday. Of course, the site wouldn’t accept my Australian credit card so I had to go down to an agent here in Makassar. Interestingly, the price seems to fluctuate from minute to minute, perhaps due to the system of the holding seats for 20 minutes.
Sriwijaya still don’t even offer flight schedules for 2010 and that’s only a couple of days away. Bizarre.
Air Asia’s a great option for the routes it flies. It’s amazing being able to fly internationally from Bandung now.
hi, I’m trying to find a way to get a refund (for a refundable fare) from lion air. They are’nt responding to emails and I can’t locate an office in Australia. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. thanks, sean
If it’s not too late… you would probably have to visit a Lion Air office in Indonesia. (There was talk of them opening an Australian subsidiary, but so far it has been only talk.) They are listed here: http://www2.lionair.co.id/contact.aspx
I wrote once (in Indonesian, I admit) to their general feedback address about a problem printing an e-ticket and got a reply within 24 hours. It’s: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some airlines (e.g. Mandala) only give refunds as credit towards other flights with the same airline; check the booking conditions first.
Hello Mrs. or Mr.
I am Mr. LEWIS GORDON responsible for a group of tradesman and I come by this present to have further information concerning the purchase of electronic plane ticket by correspondence in your agency.
I need and I would like to make the purchase of several plane tickets for tradesmen who will be on a journey in several countries and I would like to know if you issue electronic plane tickets on the following airline companies:
AIR FRANCE, ALITALIA, FLY EMIRATES, ROYAL AIR MAROC, ETIOPIAN AIR LINE, EGYPT AIR ?
I would like to also know if you accept the payment by credit card (Visa, MasterCard or AMERICAN EXPRESS).
In waiting of a fast answer want, Mrs. or Mr. to receives my sincere greetings.
Mr. LEWIS GORDON
Sriwijaya Air now offers online booking with payment via ATM BCA and klikBCA (i.e. BCA’s online banking webpage).
After we have booked some flights for passengers with SA, we will add a review to this article.
I have to add that I’ve booked Lionair myself successfully last February (being in Indonesia, but from foreign card), and my friends did the same before. So, looks like Lion now also OK about foreign cards – well, at least, some of them.
Also, I have to note that many airlines here (Batavia, Lionair, Merpati at least) often offer their cheapest (or second-cheapest) fare for SOME days around a week before departure, or even less. Seems like they do that if they feel otherwise there’ll be too many free seats left. As a result – sometimes it’s a good idea to book last-week (unlike with AirAsia and many other LCC’s in other countries), and you MAY finally pay less than even those who booked 1-2 months before! It is NOT a good idea to rely on that, however, if your travel dates are fixed – as well if there are some public holidays nearby, or if your route has only a few flights per week by only 1-2 airlines. But, if your travel schedule is very flexible (or you don’t mind to either pay more or go by land/sea if you “lose” this game) – why not to try?
Other note is about AirAsia. While many people got used to idea that AA (unless booked on last week or two) is cheaper in SE Asia than “local” airlines – in Indonesia it’s not true too often (except really good AA promotions, which you mostly have to catch months in advance). Probably they play on their popularity among tourists, and on the fact that their fare, while more than, say, Batavia or Lion for same route, is still not THAT expensive.