The Kuala Namu International Airport ( KNIA )'s first operational day was still marred with confusion while it was smooth flying all in all.
Many passengers were confused while others still went to the Polonia Airport which stopped serving commercial flights on Wednesday evening.
The passengers said they went to Polonia because they did not know how to get to KNIA which is located in Deli Serdang regency.
Ero Sitepu and his wife Lily had been looking for the airport bus everywhere but did not find one so they decided to go to Polonia, which is located inside Medan.
'Luckily there is this gentleman here so we can take the Damri bus to Kuala Namu,' Ero said while pointing to the bus driver.
State bus operator PT Damri is deploying its buses at Polonia to anticipate passengers who keep coming to Polonia which has been returned to the Indonesian Air Force.
Most passengers also found it difficult to get to the departure terminal after passing the main gate due to lack of traffic signs and lighting.
Some of them ended up at the arrival terminal, such as Heru Gani, who was bound for Bali via Jakarta using the first flight taking off from KNIA, flag carrier Garuda Indonesia's flight GA 181. He said there was no direction at all toward the departure terminal.
Inside the airport, Heru suffered another glitch when he could not get through the boarding gate after scanning his Medan-Jakarta boarding pass.
An official could not help Heru open the gate with his own boarding pass. Heru could get through after, by chance, scanning his Jakarta-Bali ticket.
'This is very confusing. The official should have been able to open the gate instead of me scanning the Jakarta-Bali ticket,' he told The Jakarta Post in the early hours of Thursday.
Carrying 120 passengers, flight GA 181 took off at 5:22 a.m., some 20 minutes behind schedule.
Many passengers of flight GA 181 came much earlier but on-duty officials prevented them from entering the waiting lounge because there had been no officials inside.
'The officials should have been there earlier than us,' said Ria Novida Telambuana who had been there at KNIA since 4 a.m.
Garuda president director Emirsyah Satar and president director of state airport operator PT Angkasa Pura II, which manages KNIA, Tri S. Sunoko, saw the first take off from KNIA.
Meanwhile, State-Owned Enterprises Minister Dahlan Iskan, Transportation Deputy Minister Bambang Susantono and North Sumatra Vice Governor T Erry Nuradi welcomed the last airplane to land at Polonia, an AirAsia aircraft.
Dahlan and his entourage then went to KNIA on board a Garuda airplane to be the first plane to land at the new airport at 1:05 a.m.
Dahlan admitted that there were many passengers still confused on the first day claiming that he met a passenger from North Tapanuli who had asked for directions 10 times.
'This is good feedback and we will provide the signage,' he told the Post, while asking Erry to coordinate with North Sumatra Transportation Agency.
He added the shift from Polonia to KNIA was a great achievement because it meant moving some 20,000 passengers daily from Polonia.
How to get to Kuala Namu International Airport
The KNIA train is the fastest mean to get to the airport with a travel time of some 45 minutes. Passengers can get to the Medan Main Train Station besides the Merdeka Square on Jl. Balai Kota. There are 10 trips per day in each direction.
Fare: Rp 85,000 ( US$8.50 )
Time table: First trip from Medan at 3:55 a.m., last trip from KNIA at 00:15 a.m.
PT Damri provides two bus shelters in Medan: on Jl. Gatot Subroto next to Carrefour and at Amplas bus terminal. Meanwhile, private bus operator PO ALS provides a shelter in Binjai city to serve passengers from Binjai mayoralty and Langkat regency.
Fare: Rp 10,000 ( US$1 ) from Amplas, Rp 15,000 from Jl. Gatot Subroto and Rp 30,000 from Binjai
Taking taxi needs some 60 minutes to 90 minutes to reach KNIA from Medan in a 39-kilometer trip, depending on traffic. The trip could be lengthened to some 120 minutes if there is a traffic jam.
Fare: Average Rp 145,000 ( US$14.50 ).