I AM someone who never wants to admit summer has ended for another year.
So as the severe weather warnings rolled in last week, I jumped at the chance for a quick getaway to a tropical island paradise.
It would be three days of sunshine and beaches to get me through until the next Aussie summer hits.
While Bali is usually my go-to for a quick dose of warmth and relaxation, this time the idea was to try somewhere new in Indonesia – Lombok.
The thought had never really crossed mind before, with the idea of a stopover making the trip at least 6.5 hours long nowhere near as appealing as the 3.5-hour flight to Bali.
And that’s where AirAsia has stepped in, introducing direct flights from Perth to Lombok four times a week.
Sunday night saw the launch of the Malaysian low-cost airline’s newest route – the plane filled with special guests, Indonesian dignitaries, media representatives, competition winners and holiday makers lucky enough to book a seat on the much-anticipated inaugural flight.
As we started to move away from Perth airport right on 7.30pm as scheduled, we received a special welcome from the captain.
“Hopefully we get a lot more flights to get a lot more tourists to Lombok,” he said.
With a timetabled journey of 3 hours and 55 minutes, we were told it would be shorter – and he delivered!
By the time I had filled out my customs declaration form, had something to eat and watched a movie, the cabin crew was preparing for landing.
Wheels touched down at 11.10pm, putting us in the air for less than 3 hours and 40 minutes.
Coming on this trip I was told it was a quieter destination, a place you could compare to what Bali was like 20-30 years ago.
That still didn’t prepare me for how quiet the airport was compared to the hustle and bustle of Bali.
We walked off the plane (no shuttle bus required), down the stairs and we were at the immigration desks.
Once stamped in, you’re at the baggage collection – just one carousel. Easy
Everyone was so friendly and excited to hear this was a first trip to Lombok for many.
The hope this direct flight will boost tourism for the island devastated by earthquakes last year is very evident.
They are so happy to welcome Australians to their home and share the culture, celebrating our arrival with a musical performance, traditional food and gift bags.
As our tour guide said when we left the airport: “Come to Lombok and enjoy the beauty of this island, the vibrant culture and handmade crafts.”
And when it takes 3 hours and 40 minutes to get there – 10 minutes less than Bali – more people can take up the opportunity, with AirAsia direct flights, to experience something new.
• This reporter flew as a guest of AirAsia and Ministry of Tourism Republic Indonesia