Flight Report : CI 752 Surabaya - Singapore
1 October 2019

I don't recall having booked such an early flight in recent memory. Perhaps the last time I tried this was in Europe with Ryanair or easyJet, but not in Asia. Wanting a flight out the Friday before after work, the down-side of grabbing a cheap deal with China Airlines is the incredibly early departure for the flight back to Singapore, where I would then connect to Hong Kong.

My alarm rang at 3:30am. By 4am, I was on my Grab car heading to Terminal 2. Even during regular hours, Surabaya's airport does not have a proper public transport service straight into the city centre. Yet, at IDR 123k, Grab was an affordable and comfortable option at this early hour.

The skies were still dark when I arrived at the airport 35 minutes later in light traffic. Expect to double that easily during rush hours. To get to my check-in counter, I had to first show a copy of my plane ticket and ID copy to get past the security guard, then X-ray screening. A few long lines snaked out of China Airlines' counters already.

While online check-in is possible for this flight, a warning flashed at the end that I could not print a boarding pass after the procedure was completed. So I still needed to drop by the counter. With 30 minutes to go before the cut-off time, I had thought time was on my side. However, the agents were slow and I waited a good 20 minutes to get processed.

This is a small, or cozy, airport.

The departures entry is upstairs and a few shops were already open along the way. First, another X-ray check, followed by a split between international and domestic flights. I had thought Terminal 2 was a purely international terminal as the older Terminal 1 across the tarmac was used for domestic flights. Then immigration check, and finally one more x-ray screening. Why there needs to be 3 X-rays was baffling.

There are only 3 gates for international departures. I saw the China Airlines plane as well as Cathay and Royal Brunei that were parked here overnight. I also heard about a KL flight but they weren't using the jet bridge.

A few cafes and the souvenir shop were all already open. By now, it is only 5am and the sun was beginning to rise. I recognized the famous layer cakes from my prior visit to Jakarta as well as the cat poo coffee. There was a generous amount of seating so despite all the flights leaving at this hour, I could still find a bench all to myself.

Here is a blast from the past. Did they think of providing mobile charging facilities long ago?

As with the security screening, bureaucracy is at its finest in other aspects of the airport experience. I initially noticed a line of locals extending from a desk that was not at the gate entrance. I eventually found out every passenger for the flight had to obtain a colour-coded boarding card at that desk before boarding. At the gate, they scanned your boarding pass, and after the gate, a staff would collect your colour card.

With a huge crowd around the gate, the flight seemed quite full. I was lucky to have an empty adjacent seat so I could stretch out a bit more. Legroom was very tight and my knees hit the seat in front even in the normal sitting position. The PTV was the old style and the entertainment selection was just as mediocre as the inbound. The seat pocket was surprisingly devoid of the duty-free catalogue and in-flight magazine.

We pushed back at 5:57am, a few minutes ahead of schedule. The crew announced a flight time of 2 hours, and after a short taxi, we roared into the blue sky.

Unfortunately, I couldn't secure a left window seat, which would have had a commanding view of the city upon our eastwards departure.

The seat belt sign was on for most of the flight as we encountered some light turbulence for the first half even as we cruised at 38,000 feet. The crew quickly served breakfast, which looked like a lunch or dinner, and were just as quick to return to collect the trays. The Chinese tea is the airline's specialty, and with an early start, I needed one badly!

These would be the last gimpses of Indonesia as we descended towards Changi.

Despite the early hour, there was a line for immigration and it moved quite slowly. I wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere, and I still had plenty of time before my connecting flight back to Hong Kong later in the day.

Returning back to the departures level, I headed to the Singapore Airlines kiosk to send my bag on its next journey.

Then I was off to the MRT for an adventure in the city. The trains depart from several floors down.

This qwerky 5th freedom flight was a great value for money with checked bag allowance as well as a free meal. With an awfully early departure time, it had to be cheap to fill up the seats. However, that meant an extra night's hotel wasted, offsetting some of the savings. East Java is an interesting place to spend a long weekend, with a variety of attractions to keep you busy but not break your wallet.

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