Cheap tickets, multiple destinations make Lion Air a favourite

PHOTO: Reuters

With its cheap airfares, high frequency of flights and large number of destinations served, Lion Air has become the go-to airline for travellers in a hurry, despite the budget airline's spotty safety record.

And even after one of its aircraft plunged into the Java Sea on Monday, killing 189 people on board, travellers continue to stick with the budget carrier.

Luthfinnisa Sony Putri, who now lives in Yogyakarta, said she would stick with her plan of booking a Lion Air flight for her Idul Fitri holiday trip to South Solok regency in West Sumatra.

She said Lion Air was the only airline that offered a direct flight from Yogyakarta to West Sumatra.

"Direct flights are hassle-free, you don't waste your time in transit and yet it costs less," said Luthfinnisa, who booked her flight with her husband and baby boy for June next year.

Based on online travel booking platform Traveloka, the trip from Adisutjipto Airport in Yogyakarta to Minangkabau International Airport in Padang, West Sumatra takes 1 hour and 55 minutes on a Lion Air direct flight with a ticket price of Rp 800,000 (US$52.59).

On a non-direct flight, it could take travellers up to 14 hours to reach Padang from Yogyakarta with ticket prices starting from Rp 2.3 million per person.

Monday's crash also did not dissuade Sakinah Utami from flying Lion Air. Sakinah, who had booked a Lion Air flight from Batam to Jakarta, decided to keep the ticket for a short trip in December.

Despite her fresh fear of flying, Sakinah said the low price motivated her to keep the booking.

"I felt scared after finding out about the incident. I have used Traveloka to find other flights, but sadly the ticket price has gone up significantly given that my trip would be in December," Sakinah said.

Early on Monday, Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the Java Sea north of Karawang, West Java after being airborne for only 13 minutes, killing all passengers and crew on board.

Lion Air plane carrying 189 people crashes into sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta

  • Chief of Indonesia's Lion Air flight JT610 search and rescue operations Muhammad Syaugi looks through recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed flight at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta
  • A pair of infant shoes is pictured among recovered belongings believed to be from the crashed Lion Air flight JT610 at Tanjung Priok port in Jakarta.
  • There were 189 people on board flight JT610 of budget airline Lion Air when ground staff lost contact with the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft early on Monday, 13 minutes after it had left the airport in Jakarta, the capital.
  • Rescue team members arrange the wreckage, showing part of the logo of Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea
  • A crying mother shows a graduation picture of her son, Agil Nugroho Septian, who was a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Tegal, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
  • Lutfiani shows an undated picture of her husband, Deryl Fida Febrianto, a passenger on Lion Air flight JT610, that crashed into the sea, at her house in Surabaya, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
  • A witness in the Karawang district said he had heard an explosion from the beach around the time the aircraft went down.
  • Sangeeta Suneja, mother of Bhavye Suneja, a pilot of Lion Air flight JT610 which crashed into the sea, reacts as she leaves for Jakarta, in New Delhi
  • Gulshan Suneja, father of pilot Bhavye Suneja.
  • Sony Setiawan (C) speaks to journalists at Pangkal Pinang airport in Bangka Belitung province on October 29, 2018, following his arrival on another airline after missing his pre-planned flight on Lion Air flight JT 610 which crashed off the coast north of Jakarta. - Setiawan was due to board the ill-fated Boeing-737 MAX but was held up on his commute to Soekarno-Hatta airport by Jakarta’s notorious traffic congestion.
  • A forensics team carries bodies of the victims of Lion Air flight JT610 to Sukanto National Police Hospital, East Jakarta, on Monday. In a statement, Lion Air said human remains had been collected in 24 body bags after sweeps of the crash site, which is about 15 km (nine miles) off the coast to the northeast of Jakarta.
  • Rescue team members carry a body bag with the remains of a passenger.
  • Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati hugs a relative of a victim of the Lion Air flight JT610 crash.
  • The Indonesian authorities have mounted a search and rescue operation for a Lion Air plane which crashed into the sea shortly after take-off from Jakarta on Monday (Oct 29) morning.
  • There are 189 passengers and crew on board the plane, including two infants, one child, two pilots and six cabin crew.
  • The plane plunged into Karawang Bay, West Java province, Mr Muhammad Syaugi, head of the national search and rescue agency, told a press briefing.
  • The waters at the crash site are around 30m to 35m deep.
  • "On the sea surface, we found debris… The location is two nautical miles from where the plane lost contact," he told reporters.
  • The crash site is near a facility of state-owned oil company Pertamina in West Java province. A video taken from a Pertamina vessel near the crash site showed oil patches on the water surface.
  • Officials said the plane had requested a return to base before finally disappearing from the radar.
  • Local TV footage also showed wallets and mobile phones that had been retrieved from the waters.
  • The head of Indonesia's national transportation safety committee (KNKT) Dr Soerjanto Tjahjono told reporters that the Boeing 737 Max 8 plane that crashed entered service in August this year and had clocked only about 800 flight hours.
  • When asked on the cause of the crash, Dr Soerjanto said: "We can't presume anything before finding the blackbox and also the recording from the (air traffic control) tower."
  • An Indonedian boatman takes pictures as debris from the ill-fated Lion Air flight JT 610 floats at sea in the waters north of Karawang, West Java province.

The aircraft used in the flight, a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8, has been reported to have had a technical problem on a previous flight, but it had been resolved according to procedure,

The crash is the latest in a string of accidents that has plagued the country's biggest budget airline in the country.

Between 2002 and 2018, Lion Air has had 15 serious incidents, some fatal and others resulting in injuries and aircraft losses.

Last year, one of Lion's Boeing jets clipped with a Wings Air plane as it landed at Kualanamu airport in North Sumatra, although no one was injured.

In 2013, all 108 passengers and crew survived when a Lion Air plane missed the runway at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, landed in the sea and split in two.

In May 2016, two Lion Air planes collided at Soekarno-Hatta airport, while a month earlier an aircraft operated by Batik Air - part of the Lion Group - clipped a TransNusa plane.

In 2004, 24 people were killed when a Lion Air flight from Jakarta skidded off a rain-slicked runway after landing in Surakarta, Central Java.

In an interview with Kompas daily in 2015, Lion Air founder Rusdi Kirana, now Indonesia's ambassador to Malaysia said "my airline is the worst in the world, but you have no choice".

Following Monday's crash of Lion Air flight JT 610, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi ordered the removal of Lion Air's technical director Muhammad Asif.

Budi Karya Sumadi said the suspension could help improve transparency and impartiality in the ongoing investigation into the crash.

The ministry's Aircraft Airworthiness and Operation Directorate has also conducted an evaluation and special audit on Lion Air. Findings from the probe would be submitted to the National Transportation Safety Committee, which has conducted its own investigation.

"If we find any negligence on the part of the airline, we will impose a strong punishment based on existing regulations," Budi Karya said.