How about a weekend getaway to Surabaya on Taiwanese airline, China Airlines!
Hello and welcome to my China Airlines flight review, CI751, on this 5th freedom flight from Singapore to Surabaya, onboard the A330-300 aircraft of the Taiwanese national carrier.
Operator: China Airlines
Route: Singapore to Surabaya
Operating aircraft: A330-302
Departure from Singapore: 8.30pm / 9.21pm*
Arrival in Surabaya: 9.45pm / 10.13pm*
Flight time: 2h15 / 1h52*
(*denotes actual timings)
I always have been somewhat fascinated by this flight of China Airlines, to connect one of its double daily to Singapore flights onwards to Surabaya, and it seems rather successful, to have operated this sector for many years. Despite the terrible 6am departure time from Surabaya, I booked myself on CI751 for this 5th freedom flight experience.
According to Wikipedia, as the capital of East Java, Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta. Surabaya Juanda International Airport is also the gateway for tours to Mount Bromo volcano, which I observed seems to be on the itinerary of many of the passengers on my flight.
Arriving at Changi Airport Terminal 3 at about 7pm, we quickly checked-in at China Airlines check-in counters. There was a short queue at the Economy Class check-in, which hinted the full passenger load for the flight later. Thankfully, we had earlier checked-in online on China Airlines website (passengers may perform internet check-in 48 hours before flight departure), and was able to utilize the Internet Check-in Counter to drop our baggage.
China Airlines offers a complimentary 30KG baggage allowance in Economy Class, that's a great perk of 5th freedom flying over budget airlines.
Our departure gate, A20 was at the far end of Terminal 3 - it is recommended to take the shuttle train. I wonder if it is just a coincidence that other Indonesia-bound flights and a Thai LionAir flight to Don Mueang were operating from this waiting area at such a far end of the terminal!
Our flight's departure was unfortunately delayed by one hour due to the late arrival of the precedent sector from Taipei. This is one of the downsides of flying on 5th freedom flights - any factors in the originating city may result in delayed arrival of the aircraft, which subsequently risks delay due to late arrival of aircraft which may be exacerbated by subsequent delays in catering and aircraft cleaning, as well as re-boarding of passengers from the inbound flight.
Perhaps, due to the delay, the cabin crew seemed a little tired during the boarding (or perhaps, at the sight of a full load of fresh passengers), but nevertheless, they mustered "hello, welcome aboard" to each passenger.
A few copies of Taiwanese newspapers were available for passengers to pick-up.
There was a pillow and blanket neatly folded on each seat. Earphones were also provided in a little receptacle next to the entertainment screen. For the convenience of passengers, a vanity mirror on the other side of the entertainment screen.
The earphones (a message on the wrapper encouraged passengers to keep for their return flight).
Speaking of the entertainment screen, it was quite the smallish one I've ever seen. Incredibly though, it was touch-screen (but don't count on it to be pinch-zoom though). There's also an entertainment handset at the side of the armrest.
Below the seat is a shared AC power port - I didn't use as it was tricky to "annex" this resource from my seat neighbour - a Chinese-Indonesian lady who appeared to have been returning from a girls' shopping trip to Taipei.
The rest of the passengers seemed mostly groups of young Singaporean/Malaysian travellers in comfortable hiking wear and bag packs, hinting of the start of their hiking adventure to Mount Bromo - which seems to be a growing trend for Singaporean travellers tired of other classic destinations like Bangkok and Bali.
After an address from the Purser in Taiwanese Mandarin and English (followed by a pre-recorded Taiwanese Hokkien announcement), a safety video was played before we took off in the night sky.
At cruising altitude, it was announced that there were 2 Thai crew operating on this flight - honestly, a rather bizarre and I don't think highly relevant detail for this 5th freedom flight between Singapore and Indonesia.
CI751 cabin crew: On behalf of the flight captain, cabin purser, cabin manager, and all the cabin crew, including two Thai crew, it is our pleasure to welcome all the guests.
Well, on this full flight, fret not if you end up seated at the back of the Airbus - there is only a single meal choice served, which is very quickly dished out to the passengers. The flight stewardess who served me was quite irritated (possibly at the fact she had to cover her colleagues' meal service duties as there was a commotion a few rows in front about leaked liquids in the overhead compartment that several of the cabin crew had to attend to). "Chicken rice!" she barked, before practically shoving the meal tray at you. Honestly, I did feel the pampering of a farm animal being fed its fodder (I was in cattle class, after all right?).
That said, the other cabin crew in general, were more gentle and served passengers with grace and smiles.
The main course was an Indonesian-style dish (how nice!): chicken curry with yellow rice and stir-fried mixed vegetables.
This was served with seasonal cut fruits and a cup of water.
Hot beverages were served - choice of coffee or Chinese tea. Chinese tea (for that authentic 5th freedom flying experience) for me.
I learnt that cold beverages were available, upon request. I had a can of Taiwanese beer (literally, Taiwan Beer) to enjoy for the rest of my flight.
Initially, I started on a Japanese movie, Masquerade Hotel but the smallish reflective screen made it difficult to fully enjoy the movie. I moved on to Avengers: Endgame, for which I had an understanding of and it was easier to apprehend the movie despite the poor resolution and screen size.
Time went by too quickly, perhaps, due to my infatuation of flight, it was time for landing.
We landed quite smoothly, albeit a 30 minute delay in arrival at Surabaya.
Thanks very much for journeying with me on my 5th freedom flight experience of China Airlines to Surabaya.
There's definitely some pros about flying 5th freedom flights like this China Airlines flight versus budget airlines flights to Surabaya - you get complimentary meals, baggage allowance and inflight entertainment on these full-service airlines, and not to mention, a comfortable widebody A330 aircraft versus the narrowbody A320 / B737 that low-cost carriers operate. As a bonus, you get to enjoy the inflight hospitality of the full-service airline, which I unfortunately missed on my Taiwanese farmstay dining experience on my flight.
However, some cons: as mentioned, 5th freedom flights, due to the short turnaround time from their previous segment, may be delayed if the inbound flight is late. Also, if this widebody flight is full, as with mine, immigration clearance can be more time-consuming versus a narrowbody flight.
For the full flight review of my CI751 flight experience: