A Guide to Spotting in Indonesia

Indonesia is a varied and interesting country for the aviation enthusiast.

It comprises more than 14,000 islands spread over a large area from Malaysia and Thailand across to Australia and Papupa New Guinea.

Because of this, air travel has been a vital lifeline for the country’s inhabitants and indigenous people who rely on this form of transport to reach their communities on different islands, and to connect with the rest of the world through the main hub airports. There are around 230 airports in Indonesia, however many more rough strips also exist in the remote communities.

Indonesian Airports

Indonesia’s main airports

The main airports in Indonesia are:

  • Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International
  • Jakarta Halim Perdanakusumra
  • Denpasar Bali Ngurah Rai International
  • Surabaya Juanda International
  • Makassar Sultan Hasanuddin International
  • Yogyakarta Adisucipto International
  • Medan Kuala Nuptu International
  • Balikpapan Sulta Aji Muhammad Sulaiman International

All of these, with the exception of Jakarta Halim, handled over 7 million passengers in 2015. Additionally there are busy airports at Batam, Semarang, Palembang and Pekanbaru.

Naturally the reason these airports are so busy is not because of tourism or the popularity of routes to other countries, but in the fact that there is an extensive domestic network of flights linking all of the islands and main cities by a number of different airlines in the country, and these flights are well utilised as a means of transport.

 

Remote Airports

Susi Air

Susi Air

Because there are a great number of outlying communities in Indonesia, and many remote tribes and people who rely on government support for receiving food, medicine and building supplies, and transport to hospitals, the are hundreds of primitive landing strips scattered throughout the country. The airline Susi Air is particularly active in flying to these communities and featured on a recent TV series called Worst Place to be a Pilot.

 

Airlines and fleets

Wings Air DHC-8 (c) Tsung TsenTsan

Wings Air DHC-8 (c) Tsung TsenTsan

Indonesia fostered many new startup airlines during deregulation in the late 1990s. However, since then the government has cracked down on poor safety records and airline management, forcing a number of airlines out of business. Many airlines were banned from flying to the EU because of their safety record, where aircraft would regularly crash on landing  due to poor training and adverse weather conditions.

By Sabung.hamster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Sabung.hamster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Today, alongside national carrier Garuda Indonesia, these are the main airlines in Indonesia:

  • Airfast Indonesia
  • Airmark
  • Batik Air
  • Citilink
  • Xpress Air
  • Indonesia AirAsia / Indonesia AirAsia X
  • Lion Air
  • NAM Air
  • Pelita Air
  • Sky Aviation
  • Sriwijaya Air
  • Susi Air
  • TransNusa Air
  • Trigana Air Service
  • Wings Air

Most of these airlines are now operating more modern aircraft. However, for many years spotters would flock to Indonesia as one of the last strongholds of classic airliners such as the Boeing 727, 737-200, Douglass DC-10 and Fokker F28.

NAM Air

Spotting Locations

Spotting is not necessarily understood in Indonesia, but many spotters travel there every year without any problem. Thankfully many airports have ‘waving galleries’, where families will often gather to wave off relatives on a flight. Therefore it is normal to watch aircraft, but not necessarily to photograph or log them.

The best spotting locations in Indonesia are:

spotting in indonesia

Jakarta Waving Galleries (c) Paul Moiser

Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta
Waving galleries on the domestic terminal. There are a number of these, so try them all out to find a view of what you need. With this being the busiest domestic hub in the country, you will see a good range of airlines and aircraft passing through all day. You also have a view across to the maintenance and storage areas at the airport, so if any of the classic types are still lying around it is here that you’ll see them.

There is also a viewing gallery on Terminal 2. And there are two good spotting hotels here to view from (see below).

Denpasar Bali
A corridor in the terminal has glass windows which look out onto the parking stands and runway. Alternatively, Kutra Beach is fairly close to the runway (although fences now restrict how close you can get).

Surabaya
The airport hotel (see below) is the best place to spot from.

 

 

Spotting hotels

Jakarta Airport Hotel
This hotel is situated upstairs in the International Terminal and all rooms look out over the gates and northern runway. The corridor leading to the rooms has windows looking towards the domestic side of the airport and maintenance areas. Perfectly nice place to stay, but can be expensive and is often fully booked.

FM7 spotting hotel

FM7 Resort Hotel at Jakarta Airport

Jakarta FM7 Resort Hotel
The FM7 Resort Hotel is situated close to the end of Runway 25R, and one of the main benefits is the proximity of aircraft approaching this runway, which can be photographed quite easily. Although the hotel is only two stories high, rooms on the top floor can be found that have good views and are not too obstructed by the surrounding trees. Some rooms also have views across to runway 25L, but SBS is necessary to identify them as they disappear behind the buildings. A rooftop Montezuma’s Bar area also has views – this is open from 5am-1am, with an additional roof area open at the manager’s discretion.

Surabaya Ibis Hotel
The best place to view here is the Ibis Hotel which is set within Terminal 1. Its rooms are above the terminal, and any facing the airport has a ramp and runway view, so you can spot and usually photograph as you wish.

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15 Responses

  1. Frank Taylor says:

    Awesome Matt thanks for posting ,will be a great help when over there next March

  2. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Frank. Enjoy your trip!

  3. Benjamin PO says:

    Thanks Matt! A quick one: are those glass of ‘waving galleries’ all tinted?

  4. Matt Falcus says:

    Last time I visited there was no glass on the domestic terminal waving galleries. The new International Terminal one may have glass though.

  5. I’ve read that the new terminal 3 of the Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International airport will provide more flights which makes Jakarta more interesting to spot planes..! Heard staff is very open to plane spotters at FM7 Resort Hotel in Jakarta, do you have experiences with FM 7 Resort hotel?

  6. Matt Falcus says:

    Hi Sofie, here’s a report about the FM7 Hote http://www.airportspotting.com/jakarta-airport-fm7-spotting-hotel/

  7. Maria says:

    Hey,

    Warmest greetings from FM7 Resort Hotel.
    Thank you for publishing information about us. Indeed we are great place for plane spotters. As you know our Montezuma is great place to watch a planes. If you would like to we could send you some actual pictures from there as maybe your readers would be interested in this?
    Please let us know if we can help you in providing some more informations.

    regards,

    Maria

  8. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Maria. Yes, please send some pictures to mattfalcus@hotmail.com I’d love to do a report on the FM7 views for spotters!

  9. Ferry says:

    FM7 is indeed one good spotting hotel. You can do that in their parking areas, the gate which overlooks the runway but their best spot is Montezuma Rooftop Bar..

    Unfortunately it only opens from 5PM. So you would have very small window of decent light, hence if it’s not raining 🙂
    Been there and like the spot. If only Montezuma opens longer, I’d visit more often..

    By the way, awesome pages you have here, Matt..
    Thanks for your relentless effort..

  10. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Ferry!

  11. Ferry says:

    Update for FM7, Matt..
    Staying at the hotel currently and i can access the rooftop bar in the morning, thanks to permission granted by the receptionists. Just state the room number, tell them you want to watch the planes and the staff will open the locked Montezuma for you.

    Other way is to get the north side room – especially the 2nd floor which is lined up with the RWY25R approach. The windows are huge. Non-smoking.

    Or walk a bit out of the front gate and you can see the end of runway on the other side of the barb wires fences.

    In all, the hotel is in premium location for planespotting in Jakarta and the staffs are welcoming the hobby.

  12. I’ve stayed at the FM7 last month and I can confirm they are very spotter friendly. I the morning I just asked if I could go to the rooftop bar to take photos and they kindly opened the doors for me. Two good things, there is some shelter for sun/rain up there and you can even connect to the free wifi. Paid a little bit less than 50€ per night including breakfast. I will definitely stay there again.

  13. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Jean-François, that’s good to hear!

  14. Ian H says:

    Two of us stayed at the FM7 resort in February 2018, room 273, very friendly hotel with the golf buggy being a handy way to get to the rooftop bar, lunatic driver from the airport to the hotel when we arrived … but we got there, great views from the rooftop bar as has previously been mentioned, allowed up witha polite request to reception. Only problem was on our last night where it was demanded that we pay our (not excessive) bar/food bill in the rooftop bar for that evening before we were allowed to leave … even though the first two nights it was charged to the room without a problem … It was not like we hadn’t had a credit card scanned and blocked… Manager involvement and it was all put on the same bill the next day ….

  15. Denzel says:

    This blog kinda makes Indonesia sound like a dusty village but its not. We have skyscrapers,huge shopping malls,great places to eat. Although it is true that some parts of Indonesia are quite remote and are still developing.

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