Jan 02

Lion Air 737-900ER Wingtip as seen from Row 3 Window Seat cruising over Java IslandGoing to Bogor and Puncak over the festive days, we were taking Lion Air to get to Jakarta from Bali and back. Apart from being competitively priced (around Rp. 350.000 one way/person), I was positively surprised about the Lion Air flights.

The plane used was a spanking-new Boeing 737-900ER, one of the newest mid-range/single-aisle planes of Boeing. This youngest member of the 737 family only received its FAA certificate in the US in April 2007. And guess who was the launching partner?

Wait a minute – Lion Air Indonesia launching partner for the 737-900ER?

Yep, that’s right! Something is definitely going on here.

It doesn’t go without saying, that there is something positive to report about Indonesian Airlines. After all we had at least 1 airlines catastrophe every 6 months for the last couple of years. There was even talk of closure of some of the incident-stricken airlines earlier, but some money changed hands and nothing happened – business as usual in Indonesia.

Even Adam Air is still airborne.

So I had to inquire a bit more about Lion Air’s setup and strategy for Asia. Turns out there is a lot to look forward to:

First they are a Jakarta-based low-cost carrier. Currently Lion Air has a fleet of roughly 40 planes of more older caliber, like 16x MD82, 5x MD90, 2x Boeing 737-300, 10x Boeing 737-400, but also already 7 of the new Boeing 737-900ER. The ‘ER’ stands for ‘Extended Range’ and has an additional 5 km (or 500 nautical miles) as well as a lighter body and additional fuel tanks compared to the original 737.

So is it really true that Lion Air was the launching partner for that plane?

Lion Airs new Boeing 737-900ER with combined paint jobJust look at this Boeing page and get it straight from the horses mouth. The first one was delivered in April 2007, with a special paint scheme that combined both the Boeing and Lion Air colors, with the Lion Air lion on the vertical stabilizer and the Boeing livery colors on the fuselage. You can see a picture of it to the left.

Lion Air initially ordered the very first manufactured 30 planes, but stocked the order up to 122 pieces at last June’s Paris Air show with a total order volume of USD 8.5 Mrd per list price.

Wow – 122 new planes, when they just had 33 planes early 2007?

They are clearly ambitious or simply have big plans.

So what’s really up?


I learned that Lion Air wants to become one of the leading regional airlines in Asia. Only 60 planes of their then 150 planes are scheduled to fly domestic routes in Indonesia, the rest will all go international between 2010-2013. They want to extend their routes from a mere domestic flight plan with only 2 international jumps to Singapore and Kuala Lumpur currently to many further destinations in Asia – amongst those Thailand, Hong Kong, Australia, Bangladesh and other locations in Malaysia.

Will they even go for long-haul routes as well?

Maybe the break-out to international markets is their only chance for survival, as the Indonesian market is pretty saturated and under huge competitive pressure – Lion Air was even forced to park some of its planes, due to lack of passengers a few years back.

But now they want to recruit an additional 300 pilots and 400 stewardesses by 2010 as well – with all pilot training done in Australia to ensure international standards.

The financing for the new planes was arranged by the Export-Import Bank, a body owned by the Government of the USA. Another interesting fact is that the CEO of Lion Air stated that they are interested in the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner as well.

Approaching Bali coming from NorthwestA new regional force besides Air Asia, Tiger Airways and Jet Star/ValueAir in the making?

It certainly looks so. That’s definitely good news for Indonesia and regional air travel in Asia. Let’s hope that they are not simply blinded by the success of Air Asia and Tiger Air and will substantially improve their maintenance regime as well:

After all it was a Lion Air plane (MD 90), which lost a 3m part from the exhaust system during takeoff from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport just on 6th December 2007. Thankfully nobody was harmed, but it was said it was due to poor maintenance from the ‘workshop facility’. And in November 2004 they had a crash of a MD80 in Solo/Java, killing 26 people among the 146 passengers and 7 crew. They blamed bad weather for that one.

Another serious incident with a Lion Air plane was back in February 2005, when an older plane (MD28) skidded off the runway on Sulawesi Island due to a blown tire, again without casualites.

It seems that it’s best to avoid their older MD (Macdonell Douglas) planes and stick to the Boeings.

By the way: The reason of our trip was a visit to Bogor and Puncak, close to Jakarta. I will put another post with some pictures together about Puncak – which is a famed weekend-getaway from Jakarta; it features a not-so-typical climate and atmosphere.

Watch this space, it won’t take that long this time. ;-)

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written by Chris

26 Responses to “Cloudless Sky ahead for Lion Air?”

  1. ceudahNo Gravatar NETHERLANDS Says:

    just today, lion announced to add 56 more boeing 737 900ER to the total of 178..what a great…
    then, what do u think about their invasion?
    asia and australia only? or perhaps europe and africa?

  2. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    ceudah – I saw that as well in the newspapers. Interesting, isn’t it? Let me try to check with them what is the higher plan behind it…there must be some real faith in management and business plan by investors who grant such sums of money to an Indonesian Airlines, given the track record of airlines here. :-?

  3. ceudahNo Gravatar NETHERLANDS Says:

    i read rusdi kirana profile,and its really interesting…
    yes, it must be a big plan behind it..hope they success with lower price but high safety standard…

  4. TatyanaNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I’m Indonesian and a doemestic frequent flier, all of those low-fare airlines, I think Mandala is the meanest. They don’t even attempt to serve their passengers with a plastic cup of mineral water they way the second meanest airlines (Adam, Citilink) do. Want to know how much a cup of mineral water costs at Carrefour stores? Rp 210 (about 20 US$ cents) So, when you re planning to fly on a Mandala 60-minute flight, make sure you stuff yourself with a bottle of 600-ml mineral water in case you need to drink every ten minutes, otehrwise you ‘ll grin to hear the voiceover the cabin crew makes “For your information, we sell all kinds of drinks you may need. Please contact one of our flight attendants. Thank you”

  5. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    That doesn’t sound so pleasant, Tatyana! Bet that competition among the Indonesian airlines is really taking its tolls.

    ceudah – oh yeah, I sent a request for more information regarding their business strategies via their contact form on their website to Lion Air. So far – 10 days after – no reply yet. Let’s see if something comes back from their PR department…

  6. Adam Air Indonesia grounded! | nomad4ever UNITED STATES Says:

    […] seems that the majority of airlines got the message, with Garuda and especially Lion Air doing what they can to overhaul their operations and financial management. They purchased new […]

  7. bonni erlanggaNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    We’d better to hope all d’best things about at all ..
    But , just for special reminder for Mr Rusdi Kirana or another Lion air’s owner that LION AIR it will be nothing as long as Management never change to develop about bad outsourching resourcement system as they do. Please check to inside.
    I was the leader team for reservation and ticketting departement on Head office of LION AIR at central of Jakarta . They are not just really LOW COST CARRIER but also LOWEST COST SALARY , :((
    maybe , they never had enough change money due aircraft payment . :))

  8. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    bonni erlangga – that is interesting to learn! Let’s see if they will revamp the whole salary structure as well, to get it to a competitive level.

  9. akhyari hanantoNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    I think, it’s better to have ‘limited’ number of airlines operating domestically, instead of granting many. Lion, Mandala, Batavia, Airfast, Citilink, is enuff. Sriwijaya, Wings are out of consideration.
    Garuda is in, of course.

  10. Juinn TaoNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    Do not fly with Lion Air. I recently bought a pair of tickets 2 months ahead of my planed departure date. A month before departure date I tried to cancel the tickets, the only way to talk to someone was to call their Indonesia office. Cost aside, they can’t communicate in English. And by the time I got someone on the line that could barely speak English, they gave me the run around. Finally one of them managed to find my booking details, after 10 mins of trying to get her to understand the words coming out of my mouth. “Siska” asked me to call her back as she checked my details, I did as suggested, bad mistake. They avoided my calls after that. They picked up and hang up my calls for the entire night. When I call from my mobile, miraculously, I manage to talk to someone again, but the moment I ask for someone who spoke English, silence….., and they stop picking up calls from my mobile number thereafter.

  11. Bart HackleyNo Gravatar UNITED STATES Says:

    How can I buy Lion Air tickets from the USA for flights in only in Indonesia without calling Lion Air? The Lion Air website doesn’t want to book me. Why?

  12. ChrisNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Lion Air probably isn’t completely ready yet for international customers. My experiences are mainly based booking them locally with a travel agent in either Singapore or via booking offices Indonesia. So it’s more like a regional budget alternative. Then it works really fine. So unless you are in Singapore or domestic Indonesia and can follow up with them personally at their office or via your travel agency, it might be better to book with more reliable (but probably more costly) alternatives.

  13. JurgenNo Gravatar ITALY Says:

    Bart Hackley I booked already four flights from Siangapore to Bali through their Website at http://www.lionair.co.id/ without any kind of problem using an Italian Credit Card. And… I flew these flights too ;-)
    Guess you just give it another try.

  14. JurgenNo Gravatar ITALY Says:

    I forgot… if it wasn’t obvious from my previous post, I booked them over the Internet being physically in Italy, using an Italian Credit Card and boarding the plane months later in Singapore without any problems

  15. CherylNo Gravatar SINGAPORE Says:

    I flew on the 02 Feb 2009 from Ambon-Makassar-Denpasar. I arrived in Denpasar Bali and to my horror, realised that my dive bag was broken into! LIONAIR security broke open my locked bag containing dive equipment and stole 3 items – A multi-purpose tool kit (which was a birthday gift from my boyfriend) and two underwater torches… I’ve heard from locals that it is notorious in Makassar, to get things stolen. I’m a dive professional and the items lost has affected my income. I’ve been trying to contact them through phone and emails bounce back as well, no action taken although a report has been made. How can Lion Air be ready for anything when their security personnel are so dishonest?

  16. ChrisNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Cheryl, that is really terrible! Did you file a police report? I hope you have an insurance for the equipment, at least then you have the chance to get some money back. But yeah, pressure Lion Air as well, they should have an interest to help you further.

    Sometimes it can be as well be the bag handlers on the airports who do the checks take something out, that doesn’t need to be necessarily the airline staff itself. Try to get in contact with the airport directors or heads of security as well, the higher the position, the better and higher the chance to get something done.

    Hope everything turns out good for you! :-o

  17. ChrisNo Gravatar INDIA Says:

    Interesting numbers regarding (domestic) passenger volumes in Indonesia. Lion Air overtook Garuda first time last year. Here is the article and the numbers:

    Aggressive New Comer Displaces Garuda’s Dominance in Flying Domestic Passengers. In 2008 a total of 9.14 million domestic passengers took a commercial flight within Indonesia. The deregulation of commercial aviation in Indonesia has given consumers choices and competitive pricing unimaginable just a few years before. A recap of passengers carried provided by the Indonesian Department of Transportation reports that Garuda Indonesia is no longer the busiest domestic air carrier, having been displaced by the aggressive newcomer Lion Air who carried 19.5% more passengers than the state-owned national carrier. In fact, if the total passengers carried by the Lion Air and its subsidiary of Wing Air are combined the gap over Garuda widens to 49.7%. Here’s a recap of total domestic passengers carried by domestic Indonesian airlines in 2008, based on figure provided by the Department of Transportation:

    • Lion Air – 9.147,942
    • Wing Abadi – 2,328.508
    • Garuda Indonesia – 7,665,390
    • Batavia Air – 4,771,272
    • Sriwijaya Air – 4,272,876
    • Manadala Airlines – 3,449,218
    • Merpati Nusantara – 2,477,173
    • Indonesia AirAsia – 1,503,672
    • Trigana Air Service – 702,718
    • Linus Airways – 268,203
    • Travel Express – 267,371
    • Riau Airlines – 232,248
    • Kalstar Aviation- 16,913
    • Indonesia Air Transport – 7,548

  18. JurgenNo Gravatar ITALY Says:

    Hi, I do have to revise my feedback on Lion Air! While last year it has been no problem booking a flight from their Website and paying by Italian Credit Card, this year it became impossible (using exactly the same card as last year). I tried many times over the last few weeks and the errors go from an immediate page not found to the much more complex rerouting to their banking site, which in return gives you just a plain payment did not complete error.
    I called up my card company too and they confirmed that they never received a payment request. Googling a bit I found that this problem apparently persists since September 2008.

  19. JurgenNo Gravatar ITALY Says:

    Chris, as you happen to be in Singapore right now, can you advise for an online travel agent in Singapore who accepts international credit cards and does the bookings on Lion Air?

  20. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Jurgen, I’m currently in Manila for a few days before flying to Negros.

    I mainly use zuji.com or expedia.com to book tickets online with credit card, but I’m almost certain, they don’t offer Lion Air flights. As for travel agents in Singapore, I liked the ones in People’s Park Complex or People’s Park Center in Chinatown. They always have the best flight-only deals and some of them do Lion Air also.

    Where do you want to fly in Indonesia? For flights Singapore-Jakarta I can currently recommend JetStar, one-way costs only USD 25 (with hand luggage) or USD 35 with up to 20kg check-in luggage. Even with short notice booking. That’s almost cheaper than the Taxi drive from Singapore’s Changi into town. ;-)

  21. JurgenNo Gravatar ITALY Says:

    I’m planning to go from Singapore to Bali and as I will arrive late evening in Changi after a long connecting flight via Beijing, Lion Air is the earliest and cheapest flight out, at least from what I found till now…
    If you have any better (cheap) solution to fly one-way from Frankfurt to Bali, your suggestions are more than welcome… ;-)

  22. ChrisNo Gravatar PHILIPPINES Says:

    Hm, I would say Jetstar also, but they only fly in the evenings. Maybe Garuda could be an option as well, they have as far as I know several flights a day, and depending on where you book, quite reasonable rates.

    As for cheaper flights from Germany/Europe – I was taking Air France 2 weeks ago from Berlin via Paris to Singapore, which was cheap (but I booked already in March) and the whole flight was only half (!) full, so I had 3 seats for myself to sleep. KLM (same group now) always seem to have a good deal also, but I don’t know how short-notice you’ll fly. Or the usual suspects Thai Airways, Malaysian and maybe even Korea Air via Seoul.

    Ah yes, forgot, Qatar Airways offers direct flights from Frankfurt via Doha to Bali since a 1 year or so, but don’t know about the pricing, since they call themselves the 5-star airline. :(

  23. DmitryNo Gravatar RUSSIAN FEDERATION Says:

    For a couple days I’m trying to book and pay the flight (Jakarta-Denpasar) by VISA classic on Lion official site. Unsuccessfully. After entering all data of my VISA and connecting with e-payment system it gives an error “We were unable to get an authorization of your payment…”.
    When I called my bank they said they even didn’t get a request for this operation.
    So, I have to buy the flight only in Jakarta airport. Hope the price will be as cheap as on site.. :-?

  24. ChrisNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Dmitry, what country is your Creditcard (cc) issued in? In Russia? I heard that many times (also from airlines in Singapore or the Philippines), that cc’s from some countries don’t work in Asia. In general, there are more problems, when they are not issued in Asia, but in some European or developing countries. Actually hard to understand, as Visa/Master are global brands, but maybe they just block certain number region due to past fraud attempts or something like that. But am just guessing here, it could be as well an error in the Lion Air booking system. Guess you are out of luck for now…. :(

  25. JurgenNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Dmitri, LionAir stopped accepting non-Indonesian credit cards since about 12 months. Prices in the airport are sensibly higher than on the web. The only way to get these rates is with the help of someone here in Indonesia who has a bank account with one of the banks listed on their website.
    Than you do the booking online and tell your friend to go to an ATM of his bank (it must be an ATM of his card issuing bank!) within a 3-hour-timeframe where he has to enter your booking number in order to be able to pay for your flight. After that he will receive a receipt slip from the ATM which has to be scanned and send to you via email as you will need it as proof of purchase at the airport.

    Very complicated, I know, but that’s the only way…

  26. chanNo Gravatar INDONESIA Says:

    Forget about LION AIR.

    They may have over 100 new planes, but what is the use if people have big problems booking with credit card. Even booking in Indonesia or Singapore is too much of a hassle.

    I had booked and paid for my grandfather’s ticket in Singapore to fly domestic in Indonesia, and yet, during check in in jakarta, they ask for credit card verification!!! How is it possible for me to fly down from Singapore to Jakarta , just to verfy? It is not low cost anymore.

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