How to get to Nias Island in Sumatra, flights on Wings Air and Merpati from Medan to Nias.
The island of Nias just off the western Sumatra coast, recently recovering from the 2005 earthquake and consequent tsunami, has traditionally been difficult to access, with the only flights for many years being run by the less than reliable SMAC (Sabang Merauke Air Charter) service, which in any case not long ago ceased flying to Nias for uncertain reasons.
These days however two larger, national airlines service the route from the nearest sizeable city on Sumatra – Medan, flying from Medan’s Polonia airport to Nias’ Binaka airport in the town of Gunungsitoli six times a day. The reverse route, from Nias to Medan, has five daily flights.
The trip takes 50 minutes (whereas traveling by road and then sea from Medan takes around 22 hours) and tickets cost in the range of $35 to $80 one way, depending on demand and how early you book.
The two airlines serving the Medan-Nias route are the cheap budget carriers Wings Air and Merpati. Wings Air, a daughter airline of Lion Air, flies out of Medan four times a day, at 05.30, 07.00, 14.15, and 15.45, while Merpati departs for Nias at 06.55 and 13.10.
The departure times for the return trip with Wings are 07.00, 08.20, and 15.30, while Merpati leaves Nias for Medan twice a day, at 08.30 and 14.45, so there’s plenty of choice and flexibility in when to leave, and arrive at, the island.
If you’re interested in booking a flight to Nias, and seeing one of Indonesia’s cultures that is still relatively earthy and unspoilt by mass tourism, or in going surfing on the island, you can do so here.
There aren’t a lot of differences between Wings Air and Merpati in terms of service, but the free baggage allowance on Merpati is a little bigger (20kg for Merpati, 15kg for WA). I have heard the going rate for surfboards is about the same: Rp40 000 to 50 000 ($US5 to 6).
I think Merpati has four flights a day too at the moment, e.g. 27 March has departures from Medan to Gunung Sitoli at 06:55, 11:00, 13:10 and 15:00. Perhaps the number of Merpati flights per day can vary with days of the week, same as their flights between Denpasar (Bali) and Mataram (Lombok).
Merpati withdrew from Sumatra in September 2012. The flights to Nias now from Medan are only available on Wings Air.
Susi Air flies Medan – Silangit – Nias and also
Padang – Telo – Nias – Sibolga
Now the Merpati flights are no more, there is a new airline flying between Medan (MES) and Nias (GNS): SKY AVIATION.
Departs MES: 07:45
Arrives GNS: 08:40
Departs GNS: 09:20
Arrives MES: 10:15
There is also suposed to be an afternoon flight on Mondays, Wednesdays and Sundays, but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be operating.
Like Wings Air, Sky Aviation flights have 15kg checked baggage allowance, not including surfboards.
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