Indonesian airports…

I am writing this from Jakarta airport, where I arrived two hours ago from Bali. No wifi here, at least not a wifi connection that I could connect to (there is one but there is no way to pay for it, which reminds me of Mumbai airport). I will try to post this in Singapore, where we will have a short stop en route to Shanghai and where there is free wifi on the airport. I travel a lot, but sometimes I am still surprised by stupid things happening at airports, because airport management or staff does not think or take responsibility for their jobs. Today had some good examples.

We arrived at the airport in Denpasar this afternoon to check in for our domestic flight to Jakarta at the domestic terminal. After going through security (where they checked our tickets) we waited in line to check in. But when it was our turn we were told that we could not check in at the domestic terminal, because we had a connecting international flight… This never happened to me before, you have a domestic flight but you should go to the international terminal in order to check in? Other people for the same flight we would not go further than Jakarta could check in of course. For us this meant a 10-15 minute outside walk in 30 degree plus temperatures from one terminal to the other with our suitcases. No need to say I was in a pretty foul mood when we arrived at the other terminal.

At the international terminal check-in luckily went relatively easy, but because of the problems at the domestic terminal we were just in time for boarding. Next to the security check at the gate there was a small store selling bottles of water, and I asked the security guy if it was OK to buy two bottles of water there to take with me on the plane. At some airports that is still allowed (Shanghai for example lets you take bottles on the plane, even on international flights). The security man said no problem, so I bought two bottles. But when I passed him to go through security I was stopped by another person and told to hand in my water! I explained that I just asked his colleague, and that he had said it was OK. No, was the answer, we probably misunderstood him and had to either drink the bottles or give them to him. I told them to get lost and went straight back to the store, where I got my money back without any problem.

When we went through security again, and two girls in front of us had to hand in two bottles of chili sauce that they had just bought in duty free. The security guys just laughed at them. Then I asked the guys how it is possible that duty free sells bottles that cannot be taken on the plane. They also laughed at me and just said: “Regulations”. Thinking about it I get the feeling that they may have a deal with the duty free shops. They probably sell the product to tourists, who cannot take it on the plane, the security takes the products and hands them back to the store for a kick-back. This also explained why the store immediately took back the bottles I had just bought. I asked the security staff about it and also complained about their colleague who had “wrongly advised” me. They told me to go to their boss (this was not their responsibility they said) and they pointed at the gate. No problem, so I walked to the gate. The persons there told me that they were not responsible either, and I had to talk to their boss. I told them that was fine, and asked them to call him to have a talk.

They refused, and told me I had to go to him, and that they would kick me of the flight because of that. Of course I did not accept that, and after a short but intense conversation in which I explained them that this was not the best way to treat their important tourists, they agreed to call their boss. He indeed turned up, a fat, arrogant guy smiling like somebody who has absolute power and does not care for tourists. I explained what had happened, and the only thing he had to say was that ‘these are the rules’. I told them that I understand that these are the rules, because they are the same all over the world. But the point is that duty free shops should not sell products that cannot be taken on board (or at least seal them so they can be taken on board) and that the security staff was plain lying to me (he spoke good English, so there was no misunderstanding here). The boss said he did not understand my complaint and I then I decided to board. Further arguing made no sensde, and I did not want to miss my plane.

Upon arrival at Jakarta airport we had a coffee at Starbucks and browsed the book shops. Around 9 PM we decided to have dinner before boarding our flight at 10 PM, but that turned out to be a bit more difficult than we thought. The food court was out of food (except for some french fries) and when we walked back to Starbucks they also told us that they were sold out (“Many people today, sir”)! We walked around the whole airport, but no restaurant had anything to eat except some cup-a-noodles. Unbelievable, this is an international airport that has flights leaving until past midnight, but there is no food available after 9 PM. In the end I decided to forget about dinner, and wait until arriving in Singapore where we will be in less than 2 hours.

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