Hari Raya exodus

Some opt for pricey private flights as millions in the region return home for the holiday

Millions of Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia are on the move, returning home for Hari Raya Puasa tomorrow. Most will travel overland by rail and road and others by sea or air.

A privileged few in Indonesia, however, will be doing so in style - in exclusive private jets.

Major roads out of Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have been clogged, while railway stations, airports and ports are filled with people anxious to be with their families.

"There is no shortcut to reach home, so everyone on a home- bound trip must be patient and bear with traffic jams and the uncomfortable journey," said Indonesian traveller M. Fajar Setiawan.

"If there's anything that I don't like about Raya, it is being stuck in traffic," said Malaysian writer Siti Azizah Mohamed. "The journey gave me a migraine." She took five hours to "balik kampung" (the trip back to one's hometown) from Kuala Lumpur to Cheng in Melaka, instead of the usual three hours.

In Indonesia, officials say a record 30 million people were expected to travel this year for the annual mudik, as the hometown journey is called, for the Idul Fitri holidays.

Air travel in Indonesia has seen an uptick in recent years as disposable incomes rise. Plugging into this demand is Jakarta-based aviation company CeoJetset.

It is offering private jets for those who want to avoid the crowds at overbooked airlines.

 

Demand has increased since the firm started offering its services during this holiday period last year, said CeoJetset general manager Mohammad Ariandi. Among the most popular are the Jakarta-Surabaya and Jakarta-Singapore routes.

"This is a very new service still at an 'introductory campaign stage'," said Mr Alwas Kurniadi Yarman, a senior wealth manager at private lender Bank Negara Indonesia (BNI), which has a one-year alliance contract with CeoJetset.

The flights do not come cheap, even on the discounted fares offered by BNI.

A ride in an Embraer Phenom 300 jet from Jakarta to Surabaya will set one back by more than 210 million rupiah (S$21,900), with the client allowed to bring five other passengers.

In Malaysia, the main North- South Expressway out of Kuala Lumpur was jammed for long stretches some 100km out of the capital city yesterday, as travellers headed towards the northern states such as Kedah and Penang, and southern states like Johor and Melaka.

The key Karak Highway to reach Peninsular Malaysia's east coast states of Pahang, Kelantan and Terengganu also saw bumper- to- bumper traffic, local media reported.

At ports and jetties facing Sumatra, tens of thousands of Indonesians working in Malaysia patiently queued up for their ferries home. These included Penang port, Bagan Datuk jetty in Perak, Port Klang port in Selangor, and jetties in Melaka and Batu Pahat, Johor.

There are nearly one million Indonesians working in Malaysia legally, and about one million more who are illegal migrant workers.

There is a silver lining for those who remain in the big cities after millions are gone for the week.

Accountant Ida Abdullah is staying put in Subang Jaya as her family all live in the Selangor suburb next to Kuala Lumpur. "I'm happy the roads here are empty - it makes it easier for us to go shopping."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Hari Raya exodus'. Print Edition | Subscribe