Garuda, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur

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Date: 22. December 2016.
Departure: Scheduled at 14:10, departed at 16:30.
Arrival: Scheduled at 17:45, landed at 19:25.
Flight time: 1 hour 55 minutes.
Seat: 8K, window.

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TRANSFER IN JAKARTA:
Upon entering the terminal I follow the signs marked ‘transfer & transit’. The arrows are pointing one floor up, but the escalators and stairs are cordoned off. I look around and eventually spot some dude wearing some semi-official looking uniform. So I ask him what I should do? To which he tells me to just go ahead and take the escalator. He even moves the cordon out of the way for me. But for all I know, he might have been the janitor.

I do not really have that much time to go to the lounge, but I need to go to the loo and figure I might as well go in the lounge and see what it is like. But to be honest, I really do not think I am missing anything much. The lounge is a real dive – dark, gloomy and tatty. But I have to say, the apron views are brilliant!

BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
Yeah right…
Number of Airbridges:
Remote boarding.
My flight is departing from gate E4. I pass the security checkpoint and head into the gate area, which is really crowded because there are another three flights leaving from the same area. The place is also stiflingly hot.

Eventually, our flight starts boarding one hour behind schedule. In the meantime, there are no announcements or anything of the sort. When eventually boarding starts, complete chaos breaks loose. There are people for the Air Asia flight queuing up for my flight to KL. An announcement is made for SkyPriority passengers to board first, but quite frankly, nobody really seems to give a shit. Neither do the ground crew. Obviously, at this point the easiest thing would be to just sit down and wait for everybody else to board. The only problem is, I cannot move, there are people all around me and I am trapped where I am.

Throughout the whole process, I think what bothers me the most is that there are people everywhere and the ground crew obviously have not got the situation under control.

Eventually, I manage to get on board. By which time the flight is already running 75 minutes behind schedule. By the time we move off stand we are running two hours late and by the time we finally reach the departing runway, the delay has increased to two and a half hours.

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew on this flight is very similar to the one on the previous flight. The young lady working the Business Class cabin is outstanding – attentive and friendly. She addresses passengers by their name, even without having to consult the flight manifest first.

Earphones and two English language newspapers, a blanket and pillow have already been placed at each seat.

The crew try to bring passengers in Business Class a hot towel and a welcome drink. But somehow, the size of the Boeing 737 with just the one aisle does not really lend itself to this while boarding is in process.

 

THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Hot scented towel served with the welcome drink on the ground.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main dish – fish, beef or chicken.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
First course:
Bowl of fruit with dragon fruit, grape and watermelon.
Main course:
Beef in a sweet curry with noodles.
Dessert:
Chocolate and coffee cream sponge cake.
Breadbasket:
A selection of bread, including garlic bread.
Beverages:
Still water with the meal, tea with milk after the meal.
Comment:
Again the presentation of the meal is very nice and it tastes good too. It does not happen to me very often that I like all the options served on a plane. But in this particular case, I think I would be happy with any one of the three choices.

 

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land in KL. I always find landing in KL Sepang a bit strange because you feel as though you were landing in the middle of nowhere. Everything is in darkness and the airport covers such a vast area that from the touchdown point you cannot see all the much of the terminal.

Eventually, we park at the satellite terminal. From there I just follow the signs for ‘imigresen’. There is a shuttle train to bring passengers from the satellite to the main terminal building.

CONCLUSION
This is my first experience with Garuda. All in all I think the inflight product is really very good. The layout of the cabin is nice and the presentation and quality of the food is excellent. Where Garuda really is an epic fail though, is with the situation on the ground. While Jakarta airport may be quite nice architecturally, the place is a mess – crowded, old and too hot. The way the flight delay and subsequent boarding is handled is absolutely atrocious. I really do not mind the delay, these are things that happen and that you have to expect when travelling by air. However, what I really find unacceptable is the somewhat lax attitude to safety and security. I am sure any one of the passengers could have walked on to the apron, unnoticed in all the chaos.

The new terminal is nearing completion. Hopefully it will bring an improvement to the situation on the ground. Garuda have come a long way and are really a great airline, once you manage to get on the plane.

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