Indonesia has bred a host of low-cost airlines in the last 10 years including Air Asia, Lion Air (they operate 747 and 787s), Mandalay (now part of Tiger), Citilink (a Garuda Indonesia subsidiary) and Sriwijaya Air. Meripati Air, which was more of a legacy carrier, ceased operations in early 2014.
Only Garuda and Sriwijaya Air operate the route between Jakarta and Malang. Garuda priced the flights at $260 while Sriwijaya priced it at exactly 10 cents per mile (which seems to be the standard pricing formula for airlines – not just in Indonesia). The return flight including luggage cost me $100.
Sriwijaya operates out of Terminal 1 B at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport. It's old and tired but is certainly time-tested. Check-in was chaotic with many lines all over the terminal. However, it was very quick with less than 5 minutes of waiting. There are no boarding pass printing machines – the agents do that for you. Also interesting for each destination is that there is a pre-printed luggage tag. Mine said MLG in bright letters.
Security was easy as everybody gets treated to TSA Pre here – laptops stay in, shoes stay on and so the lines stay short. Once through I was hoping for some food stalls or lounge access but they are clearly lacking in that department.
At 4AM there was no sign of Jakarta's famous traffic jams and I got to the gate from my downtown hotel in less than 60 minutes – amazing! As inefficient as driving is in the city is as efficient as flying is here. It seems chaotic but all my flights so far have been a breeze and all airports have operated well.
The free WiFi at the airport is the speediest I have seen in Indonesia and with 10Mbit it was easily fast enough to get some work done.
Boarding announcements were slightly disordered with different screens giving different gate information. The loud boarding announcements were hard to understand as well. Despite this, the flight boarded exactly on time and friendly agents helped me find the right gate.
As you may have experienced with Air Asia, these places have no jetway or buses. You basically have to walk all over the apron to get to your plane. There is usually a helpful agent with a sign, but it's very easy to get on the wrong flight this way.
The airline uses a number of different Boeing 737 types. I got an old 737-300 which looked like it had seen better times in the 1970s. However, the engines are new and I hope aircraft maintenance is up to international standards. Sriwijaya Air had some issues with pilots not being able to stop planes on runways in the last couple of years though no mechanical issues have played a role in any of the incidents.
The agent had given me an exit row seat with 60"+ of legroom. Sweet!
After an on-time departure and take-off the flight attendants distributed water and a snack.
Arrival was also on-time and I was on my way to the luggage belt in Malang.
In conclusion, Sriwijaya Air runs an efficient 'shop' and gets the job done just fine. Watch out for the safety record and recent incidents. The product is very similar to Air Asia or Lion though you may get an old aircraft. I'd be happy to use them again if the price is right.
Unfortunately my return flight was an 'easy' 3 hours late with constant changes to the estimated departure over a lousy speaker only in Bahasa. This is at Malang Airport which the airline only has limited control over but staff could have been a bit more helpful.