Merpati Number One?
The official schedule of Merpati Airline, effective 10.6.2005 till 31.7.2005, which has been put up in every Merpati Office, shows for MZ 606 and 615 (Denpasar-Maumere-Denpasar) a Fokker 28 aircraft, 1 hour 15 minutes flight time and Rp 721.000 one way fare.
In reality Merpati changed without notifying their passengers to a stone-age Fokker 27 which hardly makes the distance in two and a half hours, but this for the same amount of money. I simply call this cheating customers: Merpati offers a certain quality (Fokker 28) for a certain fare (Rp 721.000), but after having paid, the passenger realises that he has been seated in an air-bemo.
Delays of more than 4 hours or even cancelled flights are the rule.
Besides of that, an absolute rude and impolite ground staff (namely a Ms Rit) at Maumeres town-office adds a further negative impression.
On its (poor) Website, Merpatis Mission is: On time performance and Centre of excellence. Merpatis vision: To become the most preferred Airline in Indonesia.
Let me tell you this: You are light-years away to earn this attributes. I would rather call it Pay most get least Airline.
Merpati really spoiled our beautiful holidays in Flores.
Dr Michael Beer, Amlapura, Bali, Indonesia www.hadodi.com
Merpati are not renowned for their premiere service. A statement that I am sure will be echoed by many a traveller who has experienced this Indonesian domestic airline.
I wasn't aware of Merpati when I originally bought my ticket for an internal flight within Sumatra, one of the largest of Indonesias 1300 islands. It would be safe to say however that by purchasing a ticket on this airline you may unwittingly become party to a comedy of errors that afflict many an anwary traveller.
Indonesia has for many years been in economic strife, with corruption ruling the waves in every sector of public and private commerce. It should be no surprise then to learn that buying a ticket on the countries leading domestic airline after Garuda does not necessarily entitle you to a seat on one of their aircraft.
As with all Asian airlines (bar just one or two major players) the trick is to confirm your booking 3 days before departure, then again 48 hours before, and again o the day of departure. All being well you will receive a welcome confirmation and can make your way to the airport confident that all is well. But hang on! As a final check when packing, just to be sure, make sureyou have a few loose $1 bills at hand for any 'tips' that may aid your departure.
The airline itself has a very good safety record, and has professional crew who are nicely turned out and appear very professional. Their fleet comprises mailnly of smaller F28 aircraft with around 100 seats, which are a good choice for the many short hops within the country.
Checkin, while somewhat time consuming due to groundcrew inefficiency is pretty painless and everything appears to operate as you would expect. Your bags are weighed, tagged, and you are given a boarding pass. Excellent, were're on our way.
I was travelling on an aircraft with around 60 foreign school children from the American International school in Bangkok, who had been in the country for a few days on an excursion. While travelling in groups can be a painful process they were doing quite well. With their 3 teacher/escorts they were ushered through to the departures lounge and together we waited for the plane. And then we waited some more. And a little more.
The time for the flight to depart came and went, but the airport remained devoid of aircraft. Minute by minute passengers became a little more irritable as no information was provided as to our estimated departure time.
Then a strange event took place. A Merpati rep approached the school group and explained that the aircraft was now overbooked, and someone would have to be left behind. A delegation of businessmen wished to catch the flight and were willing to pay handsomely to be allocated seats that belonged to the schoolkids. As such around 15 would have to be removed from the flight. It was pointed out that the kids had bought tickets whereas the businessmen had in fact not, and that they possesed boarding cards, again the businessmen did not. More importantly was the connecting flight at the other end to return the kids to Bangkok.
Well you can guess what happened. The businessmen took the seats and 15 children and 2 teachers were left behind, The aircraft left around 3 hours late, and while the flight was perfectly nice I couldn't help but feel guilty and sad for those who had been forced off of the aircraft because they were not able to pay a big enough tip to those in charge.
The party were assured seats on a later flight, which never departed as the airline refused to fly with more than a few empty seats. Some of them were sent the following morning with 1 teacher, and some more the following afternoon unaccompanied. The final group of 4 arrived 3 days late after sleeping in the airport.
Merpati as you may guess were not receptive to any requests for food or accomodation, and were somewhat surprised that their passengers were surprised by the way they were treated.
The moral to the story is simple. Beware! Don't expect anything in developing countries to operate as it would back home. Expect the unexpected and if possible stand firm and try to get what you want. If all your efforts fail, bite your tongue and expect to part with a little cash.