Flight Report : CI 751 Singapore - Surabaya
27 Sep 2019

With a long weekend available out of Singapore, I searched around for an escape from the smog. My criteria were affordable flights, dry season, and free hotel. Finding a cheap flight was easy thanks to many low-cost carriers operating in the region. Getting good weather away from the smog limited my options to Indonesia outside Sumatra. With a lot of Marriott points, I zeroed in on Surabaya for a free redemption.

China Airlines offers a qwerky 5th freedom option between Singapore and Surabaya. The timing was perfect, departing in the evening after work. While priced higher than earlier departures on low-cost airlines, CI offers a free meal and 30kg of luggage. HKD $1124 later, I was ready to fly my 3rd flight on this airline in 2019.

CI departs from Terminal 3. There was no line when I arrived well ahead of my flight, and staff affixed an approved cabin luggage sticker on my backpack before sending me on my way.

With some time to kill before boarding, I walked over to the Jewel, which is connected by a bridge from the terminal, taking about 10 minutes using the short moving walkways.

I was hoping to try bak ku teh here, but after spending too much time sightseeing, I had no time left to eat so had to rush back to the terminal.

Some automation has taken over departures. First, you pass through the human barrier to enter the restricted area, which is unchanged from my previous visit. Then, you go to an automated kiosk to scan your passport and 1 of your fingers. The human immigration counter has been eliminated. After exiting the kiosk, a human will then inspect your passport and boarding pass before you exit into the air-side shopping mall. They saved a few immigration officers but I thought the procedures have become more inefficient.

By now, the sun had just set. Getting a clean window for plane spotting is hard to come by at this airport.

Tonight's plane had just arrived from Taipei for the onward journey to Surabaya. I preferred this widebody A330 than a narrowbody on a low-cost carrier.

Boarding was timely and it appeared a full flight tonight. Each seat already had a pillow and an unwrapped blanket despite the short flight. The cabin crew announced a flight time of 2 hours and we pushed back a few minutes early.

Securing a window seat was quite difficult and I had to be content with my over-the-wing spot. It would be difficult taking photos during the night anyway.

Shortly after take-off, dinner was served. The crew were very quick in returning to collect the trays as well.

Tonight's flight was quite smooth and after dinner, I explored the mediocre IFE selection.

The safety card was much smaller than Singapore Airlines' long-winded version.

The flight map's interface was more modern and impressive.

With an expected arrival time of about 9:45pm, we started descending half an hour before arrival. Soon after the cockpit made the announcement, a large number of cabin crew rushed to the front of the plane, and requested any medical personnel on board to attend an urgent situation. Then the crew rushed back to the Economy cabin behind me. It seemed quite bad as the arrival time soon changed to 10 minutes earlier. One cabin crew kept bringing a lady back and forth between the 2 Economy cabins, and I faintly heard the defribilator's instructions being played out. As we neared the airport, we started circling around repeatedly. I was surprised we weren't landing right away, and soon I heard cries behind me. It was quite distressing hearing the distraught passenger, knowing there is nothing I could do to help while we circled again and again. The arrival time would continuously change and the 30 minutes that we circled felt the longest in my life. I wanted to get on the ground and hope that passenger is OK.

While there was no announcement whatsoever on the delay and the passenger's condition, and I couldn't see what was happening in the cabin behind me, I presumed the rescue was not successful. The cabin crew, including the in-flight service manager, looked very serious and sad as they rushed front and back. Eventually, one crew placed the defribilator machine back in the storage locker above my seat, and a few more crew took away blankets and more wrapped in plastic bags. Then they turned off the lights and we left the hold for landing, eventually arriving 35 minutes late.

As we taxied into the terminal, I spotted an ambulance waiting at the gate. After the seat belt sign was turned off, the crew initially asked us to stay seated. However, in the end the doors opened and we left the plane, which made me think that the ill passenger had died and there was no longer a need to let medical personnel on the evacuate the patient.

In all my years of flying, I had never encountered such a severe incident on board. The crew looked visibly shaken, and I think they tried their best in the circumstances. I felt very sad it didn't seem to have turned out well in the end, and time felt to have stood still during the long circling above Surabaya as the ordeal unfolded.

Passing through immigration was fairly quick although the luggage took a bit longer to come out. Once we exited land-side, there were lots of touts for cars. I had initially wanted to pull some cash out for the taxi ride into town, but there were no ATMs at the exit. I saw a Bluebird counter and a credit card machine and went for it. However, the receipt had a different company name and my car was not marked Bluebird at all, so that counter must have been a fake. Nevertheless, 150,000 rupiah later (a "last flight special"), I was on my way for the 40 minute journey to the city centre.

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