Several years ago I saw a Discovery Channel series on the Komodo dragon, the largest lizards in the world. Komodo dragons can grow to nine to 10′ max and rarely weigh more than 180 pounds. Their natural habitat is a cluster of five islands in the Lesser Sunda chain in southeastern Indonesia. After arriving in Bali I booked a one-day tour to Komodo National Park that included round trip air travel.
Other posts about this trip to Bali:
Wings Air (IW) Flight 1888 – Denpasar, Indonesia to Labuan Bajo, Indonesia
Equipment: ATR 72-500
Distance: 323 statute miles
Class of Service: Economy
Scheduled Flight time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
The flight was on Wings Air, an airline I’d never heard of. Wings Air is a subsidiary of Lion Air, Indonesia’s largest privately owned airline and the second largest low-cost carrier in Southeast Asia behind Air Asia. Lion Air was founded in 1999. In 2016, Lion Air was banned from flying to the EU because of safety concerns. The ban was lifted last year when Lion AIr was awarded a positive safety rating from the International Civil Aviation Organization.
I don’t know the price for the airfare because the tour booked my ticket. It is easy to find round trip tickets for under $200.
I picked up my boarding pass in the morning when I checked in at Ngurah Rai International Airport (DPS).
Gate 3 was the designated boarding gate. The flight actually boarded from Gate 4.
Actually “boarded from” is a misnomer. There was no jet bridge. ATR 72s aren’t built for them. After the gate, we waited in a stairwell for about 15 minutes before being allowed to walk to the plane.
Walking to and from the aircraft is stylish. It’s no fun being in a flow of people getting injected into a plane and then sucked back out by jet bridge. Although the plane was parked pretty far out on the ramp, it was refreshing to stroll up and climb aboard.
ATR 72s are used for regional and commuter flights. Lion Air and subsidiaries operate more ATR 72s than any other airline. All of Wings Air’s planes are ATR 72s – 20 500s and 45 600s.
The major differences between the 500 and 600 versions are cockpit instrumentation and the 600’s PW127M engine that has a 5% takeoff power boost function that the 500 lacks. For passengers, the primary difference is the 600 has larger overhead bins.
I needed no overhead space on this trip as I carried only a backpack. There are 72 seats – hence the name ATR 72. All seats are economy and are arranged 2-2. My seat 8F was a window seat mid-cabin on the starboard side.
I estimate the seat pitch at about 31 inches. That is enough legroom for short flights. On this flight, I was sitting next to an unoccupied seat. Being able to spread out makes any seat much more comfortable. But ATR flights are usually short and fun like the Bangkok Airways flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Luang Prabang, Laos.
Unfortunately, with the densification campaign on U.S. airlines, 31-inch pitch is becoming standard even on cross-country and international flights on narrowbody aircraft.
Takeoff was at 08:03 on Runway 27.
High-wing aircraft like the ATR 72 provide great downward visibility. This flight was fairly boring because clouds obscured everything for much of the trip and there was absolutely no service. Onboard announcements were in English and Indonesian (I assume).
Mid-flight, I visited the bathroom at the rear of the cabin mainly just to have something to do.
On approach to Labuan Bajo, there were a few breaks in the overcast.
Flight 1888 landed at Komodo Airport at 09:21.
It was a short walk to the new terminal. Like me, many stopped for photos on the way.
In 2016, this airport went through a major upgrade. It can now handle 1.5 million passengers annually. That is 10 times greater than capacity previously.
It is still a small airport. Because this was a domestic flight and I had no luggage, it took no more than five minutes to walk from plane to curbside to meet my contact for the Komodo Dragon tour.
This was a good flight for the price. It departed on time and arrived just a few minutes late. While I did not pay directly, I’m sure the flight was less than $100. Aviation is important in this part of the world. There are countless thousands of populated islands here. Air transport is the best means of transportation and communication to link them together. Basic, inexpensive flights are a must. Wings Air helps to satisfy that need.