DENPASAR, Indonesia — Having flown three different airlines in Southeast Asia, I’ve been impressed by the ease and affordability — if not the slogans — of regional air carriers.
The first leg of my journey was a pitch-perfect Cathay Pacific Airlines flight from New York’s JFK Airport to Hong Kong. Ergonomic seats with adjustable headrests, approximately 1 billion TV channels and a virtual assembly line of highly edible food were among the highlights. The second leg of that flight, from Hong Kong to Jakarta aboard an Airbus A320, more closely resembled a domestic U.S. shuttle like Delta or Continental with its well-worn seats, spotty TV reception and hint of air conditioning, despite our tropical environs.
My next flight, from Jakarta to Jogyakarta, was aboard the low-cost carrier, AirAsia, whose slogan is, “Now everyone can fly.”
A gleaming Airbus exterior and a sparse but comfortable, clean interior made the flight seem shorter than its scheduled 90 minutes. For a fare costing 350,000 rupiyah (about $39), I could hardly ask for more.
Indonesia’s Lion Air whisked me from Jogyakarta to Bali. Although I had encountered almost no Western tourists during my jaunts through the historic sites in Jogyakarta and Central Java, many passengers on my flight spoke American or Australian. Here, baggy shorts, tank tops and Billabong logos were more prevalent than they had been.
I didn’t mind that the airlines unloaded passengers directly on to the tarmac via a mobile staircase, just like the kind Michael Bluth drives in “Arrested Development.” The exercise reminded me of boarding Pan Am flights as a 6-year-old traveling with my parents through Latin America.
The Lion Air flight itself was a bit bumpy, yet the airline was superbly adequate, nicer than my second Cathay Pacific experience but not as pleasant as AirAsia. Still, I was excited to be heading to Bali. For around 420,000 rupiyah ($45), the cost made me ecstatic.
En route, I found myself pondering Lion Air’s slogan: “We can make everyone fly.”
Maybe it was my diet of Hollywood movies, but the tagline felt like something one of James Bond’s nemeses might say before tossing 007 off a private jet.
Thankfully, I am not a film action hero and landed in Bali without incident.