Willem Loots, a long-time Bali resident and semi-retired professional in Indonesian tourism, had the occasion to travel through Baliís still-under-construction Ngurah Rai International Airport on April 1, 2014.
On that same date, a more costly International Passenger Service Charge applied for all outgoing passengers went into effect. The Domestic Passenger Service Charge will follow suit in August.
Representative of the widespread disappointment with Baliís new air gateway, Loots shared his experience at Baliís new airport at the invitation of Balidiscovery.com.
The Sad Decline from Airport Tax to Service Charge
Last Tuesday, April 1st I went through the experience of using the departure facilities at Ngurah Rai Denpasar Airport for the first time since the new international terminal was inaugurated last September.
I have been flying in an out of Bali countless times since I first came to the island in 1973. In a way, Ngurah Rai has always occupied a dear place in my heart, so I was totally unprepared for the awful situation that I found.
I had booked and checked-in online and printed my boarding pass at home. With hand luggage only, I thought that it would be sufficient to reach the airport an hour and a half before boarding time. A few days before my departure I had read that the airport tax would be raised from Rp. 150,000 to Rp. 200,000 as per August 1. Therefore it came as a surprise that August had arrived early when the young lady at the desk, now marked Airport Service Charge, informed me that the new rate was already in force.
The immigration procedure was swift and efficient and I am ready to admit that it is a measure of progress that I had to go through security screening only once. (Last year, I had to take off my shoes twice).
However the nightmare started immediately afterwards. After security it is impossible to just walk to the gates. In the old days shopping, tax free or not, was an OPTION. In the new setup of Angkasa Pura it is an absolute MUST to be confronted with loads of stuff you do not need. They make you stumble through a ridiculously long, serpentine labyrinth of department stores that are not only shocking in their opulence but probably extremely dangerous in emergency situations as well. Everything is placed much too close together and in case of an earthquake you better not find yourself in the airport-shopping stampedeÖ
Once I had waded through the tax-free nightmare and reached the hallway of the boarding gates I found that the first four electronic signboards I encountered were not functioning. There was no departure information whatsoever in the area where one exits from the tax free zone. I took off on a long walk to the East, asking anyone in uniform where I could find out from what gate my flight would leave, but no one could offer any advice or assistance. After hundreds of meters I finally did find ONE electronic information board lit up. While it did provide a list of flights departing during the rest of the day, THERE WAS NO GATE INFORMATION FOR ANY FLIGHT LEAVING DURING THE NEXT HOUR. My own Air Asia boarding pass indicated that I had to be at the gate at 12:15 and that I would be denied boarding if I would not show up before 12:35.
At my advanced age and with rising anger and blood pressure I kept pacing up and down the corridor that looks out on the runway, accosting anyone looking official on my path. When I finally found two uniformed Angkasa Pura officials lounging in between some of the gates they could not give any gate info either, so I asked where I could find the office of the people responsible for running the airport. I was told that I had to leave the terminal and go across the street to find them.
At exactly 12:13 a notice finally appeared on the single working information board that flight QZ8494 scheduled to depart at 12: 55 could be found at Gate 10. To reach Gate 10, from where the busses leave to the outskirts of the apron we had to go down an escalator to an area where there was neither air conditioning nor any room for passengers to sit down. Those who came last ended up sitting on the stairs.
For this scandalous lack of service everyone on QZ8494 had paid Rp. 200,000. These passengers should get their money back and the people at Angkasa Pura who are responsible for this outrage should be fired.
When I arrived in Singapore I was in a taxi within 20 minutes from the moment the plane touched down. It is always a pleasure to witness how the Changi Airport Authority implements a taxi management system that works seamlessly. It feeds passengers fairly and efficiently into taxis strictly on a first come-first serve basis. No one loses time unnecessarily. It is a perfect procedure for both drivers and their clients.
When, three days later, I returned to Bali it took more than an hour to clear immigration and customs. For a Friday rush hour, that was by itself not too bad since all officials were friendly and working hard. But afterwards, as a final insult, Angkasa Pura once again made me march through a TAX FREE shopping area before I could walk out into the mad chaos of the taxi touts.