With its cheap airfares, high frequency of flights and large number of destinations served, Lion Air has become the go-to airline for travelers in a hurry, despite the budget airline’s spotty safety record.
And even after one of its aircraft plunged into the Java Sea on Monday, killing 189 people on board, travelers continue to stick with the budget carrier.
Luthfinnisa Sony Putri, who now lives in Yogyakarta, said she would stick with her plan of booking a Lion Air flight for her Idul Fitri holiday trip to South Solok regency in West Sumatra.
She said Lion Air was the only airline that offered a direct flight from Yogyakarta to West Sumatra.
“Direct flights are hassle-free, you don’t waste your time in transit and yet it costs less,” said Luthfinnisa, who booked her flight with her husband and baby boy for June next year.
Based on online travel booking platform Traveloka, the trip from Adisutjipto Airport in Yogyakarta to Minangkabau International Airport in Padang, West Sumatra takes 1 hour and 55 minutes on a Lion Air direct flight with a ticket price of Rp 800,000 (US$52.59).
On a non-direct flight, it could take travelers up to 14 hours to reach Padang from Yogyakarta with ticket prices starting from Rp 2.3 million per person.
Monday’s crash also did not dissuade Sakinah Utami from flying Lion Air. Sakinah, who had booked a Lion Air flight from Batam to Jakarta, decided to keep the ticket for a short trip in December.
Despite her fresh fear of flying, Sakinah said the low price motivated her to keep the booking.
“I felt scared after finding out about the incident. I have used Traveloka to find other flights, but sadly the ticket price has gone up significantly given that my trip would be in December,” Sakinah said.
Early on Monday, Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the Java Sea north of Karawang, West Java after being airborne for only 13 minutes, killing all passengers and crew on board.
The aircraft used in the flight, a brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8, has been reported to have had a technical problem on a previous flight, but it had been resolved according to procedure,
The crash is the latest in a string of accidents that has plagued the country’s biggest budget airline in the country.
Between 2002 and 2018, Lion Air has had 15 serious incidents, some fatal and others resulting in injuries and aircraft losses.
Last year, one of Lion’s Boeing jets clipped with a Wings Air plane as it landed at Kualanamu airport in North Sumatra, although no one was injured.
In 2013, all 108 passengers and crew survived when a Lion Air plane missed the runway at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, landed in the sea and split in two.
In May 2016, two Lion Air planes collided at Soekarno-Hatta airport, while a month earlier an aircraft operated by Batik Air — part of the Lion Group — clipped a TransNusa plane.
In 2004, 24 people were killed when a Lion Air flight from Jakarta skidded off a rain-slicked runway after landing in Surakarta, Central Java.
In an interview with Kompas daily in 2015, Lion Air founder Rusdi Kirana, now Indonesia’s ambassador to Malaysia said “my airline is the worst in the world, but you have no choice”.
Following Monday’s crash of Lion Air flight JT 610, Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi ordered the removal of Lion Air’s technical director Muhammad Asif.
Budi Karya Sumadi said the suspension could help improve transparency and impartiality in the ongoing investigation into the crash.
The ministry’s Aircraft Airworthiness and Operation Directorate has also conducted an evaluation and special audit on Lion Air. Findings from the probe would be submitted to the National Transportation Safety Committee, which has conducted its own investigation.
“If we find any negligence on the part of the airline, we will impose a strong punishment based on existing regulations,” Budi Karya said.