Service on Lion Air is terrific

Dear Editor,
Your Reuters news item ‘All safe as Lion Air plane misses Bali runway’ (SN, April 14) brings back memories of the CAL crash at CJIA (2011).
Incidentally, my wife and I flew on Lion Air and we found its service terrific although our flight was delayed. Those who commented about the crash in NY point to similarities with the CAL crash. It was the same type of aircraft (B 737-800) and it appeared that it broke in two though at a different point from the CAL plane. The good news is, that as in the Guyana crash, all the passengers and crew survived with only a few broken limbs.

As an aside, Bali is a lovely island, very safe and attracts over a million tourists annually including many Hindus from India, because of its very holy temples. It is a very spiritual island and has very close links with Hinduism (the Garuda bird, the official bird of Indonesia, has important relevance to Hindus) and Bali was at one time a Hindu kingdom. It is officially a Hindu island with over 80% of the population subscribing to Hinduism. Almost everyone, including Muslims, knows the saga of the Ramayana and Ramayana plays are commonly staged all over the island throughout the day. The people are more spiritual than we in Guyana or in India. The people take their worship very seriously and at some temples, only well attired Hindus are allowed inside. I was rejected entrance to the holiest temple because I did not have on a kurtha.  My wife was rejected at another temple because she had on jeans. In subsequent visits, we made sure we wore traditional Indian garb. As Hindus do in Guyana, people perform poojas on the beach regularly with offerings of flowers, cloth, food and prasad. Early in the mornings, there are huge gatherings at various locations on the beach with pandits leading them in prayer which is broadcast over speakers.

I attended quite a few of these Ganga poojas in Bali and they are similar to Guyana’s, though performed in the ancient Balinese and Sanskrit languages. As in India, there are holy rivers and holy fountains and lakes. People from India as well as Hindus from England come for a holy bath. I had one myself in the chilly water.

The Lion crash took me by surprise as I am familiar with the Bali International Airport and I also recently flew on Lion, a low cost carrier competing with others in the rising Asian aviation market. I flew to Bali for anthropological field research and vacation a few times with international as well as domestic carriers. Singapore, the world’s best airline, took me there a few times as did Garuda, the national carrier of Indonesia. Garuda used to fly to the US and Europe but was banned because of safety issues as are other Indonesian carriers.

Bali is a safe airport with a huge runway.  But it is also a relatively busy airport that handles dozens of flights daily from all over Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, and the staff, immigration agents and custom officers at the airport are very warm and friendly, much friendlier than at any airport in the Caribbean. It is strange for an aircraft to miss the runway.

The departure to Jakarka, a magnificent city, was delayed because of the late arrival of the aircraft but the service was very good much better (for a very short flight with unlimited drinks and snacks) than those Caribbean regional carriers. The crew was a lot friendlier than those in the Caribbean.
It is hoped that the owners of the carrier would focus more attention on safety issues for it is difficult to understand how and why a new aircraft would miss the runway.

Yours faithfully,
Vishnu Bisram

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