How Indonesia’s Batavia Air Nearly Put Me Off Flying For Life

How Indonesia’s Batavia Air Nearly Put Me Off Flying For Life

Ever taken a flight so bad that you want to kiss the ground the moment you disembark and swear to never get back on a plane again? I have.

In fact, it was so bad that I was pretty cautious about flying for a good while after that.

Batavia Air is a domestic Indonesian airline that went out of business due to bankruptcy in 2013. The unfortunate thing in this story is that we actually had some semblance of choice when we decided to fly with Batavia Air from Jakarta to Raja Ampat, but we went with it because it had the dates that catered to everyone’s schedule.

Big mistake.

It honestly seemed fine when we first stepped into the aircraft, nothing that I wasn’t prepared for. Sure, the aisles were pretty narrow and the seats looked small and a little worn, but that was fine.

Sitting down, the cushions on the seats were so thin, I swear my buttbones came into brief contact with metal as the seat dipped. Still okay, nothing too bad. Then I tried to fasten my seatbelt and the entire seatbelt just came away as I pulled. I stared in disbelief at the one half of a seatbelt in my hands not attached in any way to my seat.

I do remember my mind clamouring at that moment, disbelief slowly morphing into shock. This is supposed to keep me safe? This?? A rational part of my brain just went, okay, let’s just hope this is the smoothest flight ever and I won’t even miss having a functioning seatbelt. (Spoiler: It wasn’t)

One of my travelling partners turned to her window, did a double take and then went so close her nose was almost pressed up against it. There was a long pause, in which I was still struggling to figure out how to secure my seatbelt somehow, before she turned to me with a slightly incredulous grin on her face.

“Hey, these windows are layered to keep the external atmosphere out while keeping the cabin pressure like… Breathable, right?”

“Right,” I answered, not really sure where this was going.

“So… On a scale of one to we-might-die, how safe is it that there’s a spider in between the layers?”

It was my turn to press my nose to the glass and true enough, the very panes that stood between us and uninhabitable atmosphere held a spider.

“Um…” I had no clue how to even begin dealing with this but we eventually decided to take a chance and leave it as it was.

Then came the issue of another travelling partner’s tray table. Those who have flown before will be familiar with the fact that tray tables need to be up during landing and take-off. Unfortunately, my companion’s tray table couldn’t be fastened due to the simple virtue of there being no catch available to attach it to.

The air stewardess confirmed that the table needed to be up nevertheless and so we held the tray table up for the entire duration of the take-off in a rather ridiculous solution to an almost laughable problem.

Heaving a sigh of relief for actually having taken off, we were confronted with a brand new culture shock: refreshments. While we weren’t expecting anything spectacular, we certainly weren’t expecting the most dubious forms of buns we’d ever encountered.

Introducing Dubious Bun #1: The colourful speckled bun. No doubt some sort of jelly bits that were interspersed through the bread meant to make it look festive and add some flavour. Unfortunately, they were rubbery and tasted rather bleak as well.

The buns in question may or may not have looked as sickly | Image credit: Phattire

Dubious Bun #2 looked innocent at first, until I realised upon biting into it that it was meant to be a cheese bun. Don’t get me wrong, cheese buns are great. However, this was not a cheese bun, but a pale imitation of it. The ‘cheese’ was some vile tasting powder that caked the hollow insides of slightly stale bread, truly a horrific experience.

Moreover, the lady beside us happened to have her child walking over seats and clambering about while hot drinks were being served. If you’re thinking, Well, that’s a disaster waiting to happen, it was. Needless to say, hot coffee was spilt, people’s belongings got splashed with subpar java juice and kids started crying while mothers shrieked at them.

Staggering off that flight, I was madly relieved to know that after a three hour transit, we would only have one more leg to go before arriving at our destination. Thankfully, the rest of the journey there remained relatively uneventful.

Getting back was a whole other story. For a solid two hours, I seriously doubted if we would make it out of that airport considering that the flight was delayed for about four hours with no information given other than that there was an issue with the wheels. Four hours in a terminal would have been fine except that this was a terminal so full of people smoking (inside and outside) that I couldn’t see the signs clearly because the air was that hazy.

There simply was no fresh air available, nor many fans to ventilate the space and everybody was crowded in a tiny waiting area and talking way louder than they honestly needed to. I was sure that I was in some form of purgatory and had just resigned myself to never leaving when they finally allowed us to board.

During our first transit, there was yet another delay and again, with zero explanations given. At this point, we were all getting rather anxious as this flight was to take us to Jakarta at which point we had to change to an SQ flight that would take us home. Checking our watches did nothing but convince us that though we left a generous margin between flights in case of this very situation, it still wasn’t enough buffer.

When we finally landed in Jakarta, it probably looked like a scene from The Amazing Race as we grabbed our bags and full out sprinted for the Singapore Airlines counter… Only to find that we’d missed our flight.

Thus we began the tedious procedure of rebooking the flight (thank goodness there was another in about three hours) and calling up our insurance companies.

By the time we stumbled into the Singapore Airlines cabin, we were this close to hugging the air stewardesses and kissing the floor. We collapsed into our seats with haggard eyes and looking like men home from the war and whispered, “Never again.”

So when we heard that Batavia Air had gone out of business, those of us who had gone on that trip nodded sagely at each other and shrugged, “No surprise there.

About Author

Chloe Ang
Chloe Ang

Chloe spends her life trying to find the divine balance between eating, reading and travelling. When she’s not bounding off to explore new places, she’s likely slothing it out and stuffing her face. Her dream is to eat and read her way around the world, but her ultimate dream though is to be a cat.


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