Garuda Indonesia, First Class – Boeing B 777-300: Jakarta to London

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INTRODUCTION

Three days before my flight back to London, I receive an e-mail from the Garuda First Class concierge asking me a) what I had in mind for the complimentary pick-up, b) if I had any specific dietary requirements they should know about and c) what size pyjama I take. That more or less sets the tone for my flight back home and the end of what has been a truly relaxing and thoroughly enjoyable vacation…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

I leave the FM7 Hotel at 09h30. This morning the traffic is much thicker and for some unearthly reason we find ourselves taking backroads through some small village. The journey to the airport takes twenty minutes to complete.

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Before we depart from the hotel, the driver hands me a refreshing towel and a bottle of still water.

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CHECK-IN

We pull up to Terminal 3, where I am already being expected by the First Class ground crew. I step out of the car and a young lady greets me by name. She welcomes me to the flight, while a young man takes my luggage out of the booth. The young lady then escorts me to the dedicated First Class check-in area and invites me to take a seat while she checks me in and tags my suitcase.

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Once that’s done, she accompanies me through security and immigration. There is a dedicated lane for First Class passengers for security and behind that, we head straight for the counter for holders of diplomatic passports – which of course speeds things up considerably…

AIRSIDE/LOUNGE

And then form there we head for the First Class lounge on the mezzanine level. The place is deserted when I arrive. The lounge is a nice size, although it seems a bit large now, given that currently Garuda’s flight to London is the only with a First Class service and even that only operates three times a week.

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I take a seat in the lounge and am brought yet another refreshing towel, followed by some still water, a plate of fresh fruit and the menu for the lounge. There is no buffet in the First Class lounge, so food can only be ordered from the staff. I go with the Gnocchi Neapolitana, which is very good.

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BOARDING

At around 11h45 the gate agent comes to inform me that the flight is now in the final stages of boarding. It’s time to leave. At the lounge’s reception area all the staff are lined up to say goodbye and wish me a pleasant trip.

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We breeze through the boarding gate and take the left aisle down to the airbridge for First Class passengers only. Here too there are ground staff in the First Class uniform wishing me a pleasant flight. I step on board. The ground attendant hands me over to the purser – who also greets me by name – then says goodbye and wishes me a safe journey. One of the First Class cabin crew then shows me to my seat on 2K.

CABIN

Garuda’s First Class cabin is really quite amazing. Every seat is enclosed in a sort of mini-suite, with sliding doors that can be closed for more privacy. Apart from that, the cabin and seat have a very elegant appearance and are kept in rich, dark colours.

There is plenty of storage space, including a closet with two hangers that is wide enough for me to hang my clothes in once I change into the pyjamas.

The seat is very comfortable and the sliding doors certainly give the you the feeling of being in your own suite. It’s not just that the sliding doors will give you more privacy. I also think you are disturbed a lot less when you rest because you really don’t notice at all when somebody passes by your seat.

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CREW & SERIVCE

As I already mentioned, the crew are expecting me at the door as I step on board. By the way, the curtain to Business is closed during boarding, which is just a minor detail but something I really like.

There are a whole lot of goodies expecting me at my seat:

  1. the food and drinks menus for the flight,
  2. noise cancelling earphones,
  3. a vanity kit,
  4. two pillows,
  5. a set of stationary with a pen,
  6. the pyjamas.
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As soon as I take my seat, one of the cabin crew comes to offer me a welcome drink. A few moments later she returns with a scented hot towel, a glass of the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé and a small ramekin of warm macadamia nuts.

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The flight time is announced at 14 hours and 15 minutes. Brilliant! All the more time to enjoy Garuda’s First Class service!

The crew on this flight are truly excellent. They’re personable, charming and very friendly. They make passengers feel at ease in a way that seems very natural.

AMENITIES

The amenity kit is of no particular brand. It contains:

  1. a brush,
  2. earplugs,
  3. lip balm,
  4. eyeshades,
  5. a dental set,
  6. two Payot branded creams.

What strikes me about the vanity kit is that the content is of less good quality than the one I was given in Business Class on the Melbourne to Jakarta leg of this trip. The toothbrush for example, is rather small and more like a kid’s tooth brush (although adult size toothbrushes are available in the lavatory).

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The pyjama is black and not of any particular brand. It’s comfortable enough but be warned, the cut is rather tight. I’m wearing an XL and the pants still make me look like a primo ballerino…

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In contrast, the slippers are excellent. They’re solid and very comfortable. There’s a bit of an awkward moment when the cabin crew bring me the slippers, because they insist on helping you take off your shoes and kneel before you to do so, which is something most Europeans are probably not so used to.

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THE MEAL

Orders for the meal are taken before we push back.

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The meal service begins with the caviar service, which is served with warm blinis, crème fraîche and shrimp crackers. And more of the champagne.

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For the first course, I go with the chicken musakhan roll, served with a beetroot relish and garlic sauce. I have no idea what the brown powder dusted on the rolls is, but it’s certainly fragrant, with a subtle hint of citrus.

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Next comes the pumpkin soup with enoki mushroom and crème fraîche. The soup is served with toasted bread. Perhaps the soup might have been a tad warmer. But other than that, it’s a very hearty soup with a strong underlying flavour of celery.

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For the main course I have the grilled beef sirloin. This is served with a thyme jus, asparagus, mushrooms and grilled cherry tomatoes. It should also have had a potato soufflé, which I request to have swapped for the truffle ravioli, which are excellent. The meat is good too, it’s cooked just right and has a nice charcoal flavour.

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And then I have the cheese board and crackers. There is no information about what cheese it is – I’m guessing some sort of camembert, a cheddar and maybe a Roquefort.

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And then, for dessert I have the chocolate lava with vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit. The lava also could have spent some more time in the oven. But other than that, you can’t really go wrong with anything that contains warm melted chocolate, can you?

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And just in case I’m still hungry, the cabin attendant brings me two shortbread biscuits with the cappuccino. And that concludes the meal service. And I feel totally gorged!

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After the meal, one of the flight attendants makes up my bed for me to sleep. The duvet I’m given is amazingly fluffy and the pillows are nice and comfortable. There’s also a thick mattress on the seat for greater comfort. With the doors closed, the suite feels very intimate and cosy.

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At some point during the flight I wake up and ask for a noodle soup and a drink. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever had a decanted Diet Coke!

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And then I go off to sleep again.

SECOND SERVICE

I awake about two hours out of London. Just in time for the second meal service. There is a whole list of items to choose from, the second service consists of a starter, a main course and a dessert.

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To start I have the cream of asparagus with a dumpling and fresh asparagus. This dish is excellent. The soup has a velvety texture and the different flavours are very finely balanced.

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For the main course I go with the seabass in a turmeric pickle sauce and potato croquettes, baby pak choy and vegetables. When I order the fish, I notice a slight hesitation from the flight attendant, and I can’t help but feel that she’s trying to dissuade me from having it. Once I tuck in, I realise why: because what I thought were green beans are in fact small and really vicious green chillies that nearly blow the top of my head off! My friend, the valiant M. always says he doesn’t get how I can eat very spicy food and enjoy it, but this is too much even for me! Other than that though, the fish is moist and the sauce is flavourful and tangy.

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For dessert I have the plate of fruit, which includes two slices of Guava and manages to quench the fire burning in my mouth!

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And then to conclude, I have mint tea, served with two sticks of Valrhona chocolate.

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I really must say, the quality and quantity of the food served in Garuda’s First Class is quite impressive. The tableware is attractive and the presentation of the dishes shows a lot of attention to detail. My other friend, the tall, blond M. has a stomach that is a bottomless pit. I really don’t know where the guy puts it all. But I’m sure he would have had a whale of a time on this flight!

ARRIVAL

By the time the second service ends, we’re already nearing the top of descent. It’s just gone eight in the evening and traffic in Heathrow is calm. As the flight draws to an end, one of the cabin crew takes my vanity kit, slippers and pyjamas and places them in a Garuda First Class branded bag for me to take with me.

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We land in an easterly direction without even having to hold, and then very slowly taxi to our gate at Terminal 3. When eventually we reach our stand, only the airbridge for the L2 door is attached because the police are there to meet our flight. Apparently they’re looking for one particular passenger. Once he is removed from the flight, we’re free to disembark. It’s really quite embarrassing how the cabin crew request all the Business Class passengers to step aside to allow me and the other three First Class passengers to disembark first.

There is a representative from Garuda holding a sign up with my name as I step off the plane. He welcomes me to London and then escorts me through immigration, assists me with my bag and takes me through customs. Once we’re landside again, he gives me instructions on how to get to Terminal 5, where I’ll be spending the night, before sending me on my way.

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CONCLUSION

I’m wondering where Garuda is going with its First Class product right now. Personally, I think this was one of the best First Class experiences I’ve had in a long time that was truly deserving of the term first class. The hard product is excellent and the crews on the ground and in the air obviously made an enormous effort to provide passengers with a service that is refined and polished. But it just seems like an awful lot of effort for just the one route with a service that doesn’t even operate daily to Heathrow.

But apart from that, I think Garuda Indonesia offers a good and solid product, both in Business Class and in First. Admittedly, I do think they could significantly improve the experience on the ground for passengers not travelling in First. I understand that the two domestic flights I did were delayed due to the severe weather that the airline has no influence over, and perhaps it goes without saying in Indonesia that all you can do in such cases is to sit and wait for it to pass. Even so, I think it wouldn’t hurt Garuda to communicate more proactively in cases of irregularity – and with that I don’t mean having a gate agent yelling at the top of her voice in Bahasia only.

I sincerely wish Garuda the best of luck for the future. And I hope their new CEO will succeed in maintaining the high standard of service and professionalism that I experienced and enjoyed on all my flights with the airline so far.

Would I choose Garuda again? Definitely!

Garuda Indonesia, Business Class – Airbus A 330-200: Surabaya to Jakarta

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INTRODUCTION
Had I already mentioned it’s the monsoon season in Java? Goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like this. No sooner have we left the hotel, the rain starts. This must be what they mean when people speak of the heavens opening. Within minutes the streets turn to rivers and it becomes nearly impossible to see anything up ahead of the car. I think it’s kind of atmospheric though, sitting in the comfort of the car with the rain pelting down on the roof as we drive through the rain drenched streets of Surabaya under a thunderous sky. And the Indonesians? To be honest, I think they hardly notice the rain. At least they all seem to be going about their business as usual – and their driving certainly hasn’t slowed down…

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My flight to Jakarta will be leaving at 18h00. Given how long it took me to get from the airport into Surabaya when I got here, I arrange for the car to pick me up from the Majapahit at 15h00. Of course I hadn’t considered that this being Friday there would be less traffic. And so it happens that the trip to the airport only takes me fifty minutes to complete instead of ninety.

CHECK-IN
Garuda has its own domestic terminal here in Surabaya, which is Terminal 2. The facility looks rather new and very modern. The check-in area is only accessible for passengers with a valid ticket and you are required to show your ticket or boarding pass to enter the restricted area.

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There is a separate check-in are for premium customers, located opposite the regular check-in counters. The lady at check-in is friendly and obviously in a good mood, and apparently she was expecting me. I was able to check in using the app, but downloading the boarding pass to my Wallet or sending it by mail or text message didn’t work.

AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
The security check point and lounge area are located one floor up from check-in. Much to my surprise, there is even a lounge for Business Class passengers. It’s fairly small. In addition, there are a few weather related delays, making it difficult to find a place to sit. But eventually I manage.

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There are no washrooms in the lounge, and passengers should use the toilets next to the prayer room.

BOARDING
I think it’s safe to say we’re not going to leave on time. The previous service to Jakarta at 15h30 has been delayed due to weather and will now only be departing at 19h00. At some point, my flight shows up with a delay of thirty minutes, for a departure at 18h30.

Surprisingly though, 18h30 is when the boarding for my flight starts, which isn’t too bad. Eventually we close doors and push back at 19h10, with a delay of slightly more than an hour. The flight time is announced as one hour and six minutes. Although eventually, with the holding in Jakarta it’s more like ninety minutes.

CABIN
The cabin and seat configuration on the A 330-200 is identical to Garuda’s A 330-300 that I flew on from Melbourne to Jakarta. There is a pillow at every seat and blankets are available upon request.

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CREW & SERIVCE
The flight is full this evening, so there are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin. Again they’re friendly and polite. The steward approaches me and ask me if I’d like a welcome drink. He returns shortly after with a glass of apple juice and a scented cold towel.

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THE MEAL
As on the flight from Jakarta to Surabaya, the meal consists of

  1. a bowl of fruit,
  2. a bread roll and butter,
  3. a strange dessert which I suspect and hope is made out of rice,
  4. a hot meal with a choice of either fish or chicken.

I go with the chicken, which is quite enjoyable. I have really no idea what the white and green dessert thingy is supposed to be, but it tastes okay actually.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we land with a delay of not quite two hours. The aircraft comes to a stop at a gate on the international concourse, which means that after disembarking, we are bussed to domestic arrivals. There are separate busses for Business Class passengers. I will be spending my last night in Indonesia at the FM7 Hotel close to the airport. Ground transportation in Indonesia really is a nightmare, and the FM7 is only about a ten minute drive away from the airport.

Garuda Indonesia, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Jakarta to Surabaya

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INTRODUCTION
Surabya Johnny, warum bist du so roh…? Surabaya Johnny, no-one’s meaner than you…

I just landed in Jakarta on a flight from Melbourne. We’re coming up to eleven in the morning. I’m not staying in Jakarta though. Instead, I’ve decided to heed the advice of my friend P., otherwise known as the Flying Dutchman, and head for Surabaya instead.

Why Surabaya, I hear you say? Don’t worry, I will explain later.

TRANSFER
The process is fairly straightforward. If you’re continuing on a domestic flight, you will have to clear immigration and customs in Jakarta. Once you exit customs, just follow the signs for domestic check-in. Eventually, the escalators will eject you on the second floor of Terminal 3, which is home to Garuda and its SkyTeam partners.

Domestic check-in for Garuda is on rows E and F. The SkyPriority counters are F2 and F3.

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AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
There is a dedicated line for security for SkyPriority passengers and when I arrive, the place is deserted. The staff manning the check point are very friendly and seem glad to see somebody. I suspect they’re probably just bored out of their wits.

The new terminal in Jakarta is airy and spacious. Surprisingly though, it’s also already showing first signs of wear and tear, despite that fact that it hasn’t been open that long. The roof is leaking in places, while other parts of the facility appear to be not quite finished or completed yet.

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The Garuda lounge is fairly large, but here too there is some urgent need for repairs. The lounge’s big selling point though, is that they serve Indonesian food! I don’t know what half the stuff I’m eating is here, but it sure is tasty!

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BOARDING
I think ‘organised chaos’ best describes the experience of flying in Indonesia. At 13h00 my flight shows up as ‘now boarding’ from gate 15. Only, when I reach gate 15 they’re still in the process of boarding the previous flight, which is heading for Denpasar. But still my flight is showing as being on time for a 13h30 departure.

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About twenty minutes later, I decide to check on the departures monitors about my flight. Only to find that the gate has been changed to 20, which is quite a schlep from gate 15. So I trek down to gate 20, where apparently they’re boarding a flight to somewhere else. My flight is also on the display and still down as on time, despite the fact that it’s already 13h35.

The only thing in the way of an announcement is one of the gate agents yelling something at the top of her voice in Bahsa. I approach one of the ten (!) agents at gate 20 to inquire about the status of my flight. She tells me that boarding will start soon from this gate.

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Eventually boarding starts at 14h20. By the time we push back it’s 14h40. So by now we’re already more than an hour behind schedule. The captain comes on the speaker to inform us that we’re currently number 15 in the departure sequence and will probably have to wait another forty minutes before it’s our turn depart…

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The flight time is announced as one hour and twenty minutes.

CABIN
Even for such a short hop, Garuda offers a Business Class product with a dedicated Business Class cabin. The seat has a pitch of 42 inches and a width of 19 inches. The design of the seat looks similar to the one I had on the Virgin Australia flight. The only difference being that Garuda also has a footrest installed on its seat, which really is much more comfortable to relax in when the seat is in the recline position.

There are twelve seats in a 2 + 2 configuration on three rows.

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CREW & SERIVCE
The Business Class cabin is taken care of by one female flight attendant. While boarding is still in progress she brings me a scented cold towel and a glass of orange juice. She’s obviously more focussed than friendly, but that’s okay.

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THE MEAL
Eventually we take off. The first few minutes of the flight are really bumpy, so it takes a while for the seatbelt sign to be turned off.

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Quite surprisingly, the crew are planning on doing a full tray service, despite the short flight time. They even use tablecloths!

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The tray arrives and consists of a bowl of fruit, another bowl with something sweet and a side plate with a cheese bun and butter.

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It’s only after I start on the fruit that I realise there’s also a hot meal, which is served separately. There is even a choice between two dishes: one is a piece of fish, while the other is chicken in a spicy gravy. I go with the latter and I really must say, the meal is excellent. But apart from that, I’m quite amazed how Garuda manages to serve up a hot meal on a flight of just over one hour, and how one flight attendant manages to serve twelve passengers in that time and remains friendly and courteous throughout.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we start our descent into Surabaya. The light outside looks strange. It’s murky and wet. The approach is quite nice though. We come in over the sea, we make landfall, flying over these enormous rice feels. It’s a very poetic landscape, especially in the strange light.

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Garuda operates out of Terminal 2 in Surabaya.

GETTING INTO TOWN
Traffic in Indonesia is so bad, it’s legendary. And while Surabaya may not be quite as atrocious as Jakarta, it’s still bad. The airport is 19km away from the hotel where I’m staying. With the really nasty traffic it takes us ninety minutes to make the journey.

Garuda Indonesia, Business Class – Airbus A 330-300: Melbourne to Jakarta

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INTRODUCTION
I’ve really enjoyed this holiday. I had a great time and I think Australia is just a brilliant visit. It has so much to offer and the people are really friendly. Just as long as you can ignore the fact that many of the world’s most dangerous animals live here…

I spend that last two days of my trip in St. Kilda, which is a suburb of Melbourne. I rather like the place. Parts of it are quite run down and overall it comes across as the Australian interpretation of the British seaside resort.

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Oh yeah, and the weather was just brilliant!

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
My flight will be departing at 07h45, which is too early for me to catch the Skybus. The first service from St. Kilda doesn’t depart until 06h30, which is too late. So it’ll have to be a taxi this time, which will set you back about AUD80. I think this is rather steep for a journey of not even thirty minutes. But then again, I find that generally speaking the cost of living is quite expensive in Australia.

CHECK-IN
Garuda checks in on row F of the international terminal. There are two separate queues for Business Class and SkyPriority passengers.

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AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
In any case, passengers travelling in Garuda Business Class are entitled to use the priority lane for security. But that is hardly an issue this morning, given that the international terminal is really quiet.

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Once I’m airside, I’m hoping to find a shop that sells Tim Tams, which are, in my view, Australia’s best contribution to the world. Tim Tams are these chocolate covered biscuits that taste absolutely divine. Just a piece of advice though: if you’re thinking of taking some of these delectable goodies home with you from your trip to Oz, get them at Woolworths in the city, where a packet will cost you around AUD3.80. If you buy them at the airport, it’ll cost you AUD6.80 for one packet of AUD5.- if you’re getting four packets.

They call it a bargain, I call it a rip off!

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Garuda uses the Qantas Business Class lounge in Melbourne, which I already covered in a previous trip report pretty much a year ago when I flew Qatar Airways from Melbourne to Doha and then on to Frankfurt.

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BOARDING
Apparently there was a delay on the inbound flight from Denpasar, so instead of 07h15, eventually boarding starts at 07h45. As a result, we depart thirty minutes late. However, the flight time is announced to be slightly over six hours, which is significantly less than the scheduled flight time, which is given as seven hours and five minutes.

There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers.

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CABIN
Garuda operates the A 330-300 in two different cabin configurations. Version 1 has 215 seats in Economy and 42 seats in Business Class, while version 2 has 239 seats in Economy and only 24 in Business Class.

The Business Class seat in the version 1 configuration is similar to the one Air France has on some of its aircraft. The width is 20.8 inches, and the pitch is 60 inches. The seat is comfortable enough. Of course, it’s not as private at the resvers herring bone configuration, but given that this is a day flight of only six hourse, I think it’s perfectly fine. The seats are in a traditional 2 + 2 + 2 configuration.

One draw back though, is that there is next to no storage space on this seat. But at least the seat next to me stays empty on today’s flight, so I can park my things there.

And just one final rant: the armrest in the middle, so between my seat and the neighbouring one, is higher up than the one on the window side, which is just feels awkward.

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CREW & SERIVCE
But despite the seat, a good crew can go a long way to make up for all sorts of short comings. And this is where Garuda really shines, I think. No sooner have I taken my seat that a crew member approaches me, welcomes me by my name and takes my jacket to hang in the closet. She also brings me a cold, scented towel and a glass of orange juice.

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AMENITIES
There is a pillow and a blanket already at my seat. In addition, there are two English language newspapers, the amenity kit, the menus and a bottle of still water at the seat.

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The amenity kit includes slippers.

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THE MEAL
The breakfast service begins with another glass of orange juice and a bowl of cashew nuts.

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Then the tray arrives with the fruit, yoghurt and the pastries. I really like the presentation of the meal and the tray. The only things that is perhaps not so nice is that the yoghurt is still in its original plastic container.

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Once I finish with the fruit, the plate is removed and I am brought a new set of cutlery for the main course. I’ve decided to go with the Western breakfast, which includes scrambled eggs that are freshly prepared on board, a veal sausage, mushrooms, tomato, potatoes and the Australian interpretation of baked beans.

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The meal is good. Moreover, the portions are quite decent. The meal concludes with the coffee. And after that, I think I need to nap. It was an early start this morning.

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SECOND (and THIRD) SERVICE
About two hours later I wake up again feeling hungry, so I order the noodle soup from the snack menu.

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What I don’t realise, is that there is actually a second service on this flight, which is served about 90 minutes out of Jakarta. I go with the selection of satay, which tastes really good.

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ARRIVAL
Eventually we start our descent. But the weather in the Jakarta is quite bad. And so we spend quite a while doing circuits in fairly rough conditions before eventually we are cleared for the approach. We land at 10h40, slightly behind schedule.

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As we taxi in, we pass quite a few derelict aircraft is varying stages of repair or decay. A Boeing 747 that is being scrapped very nearly breaks my little heart. How can people do this…?

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TRANSIT
The new terminal is a vast improvement over thew old one. I kind of get the feeling though, that’s it’s not entirely finished yet, and there are closed off areas everywhere.

If you’re travelling on an EU passport, you’re probably going to need a vist for Indonesia. This can be obtained on arrival. You have to have USD35 in cash on you. Fortunately, the terminal is very quiet when I arrive, and so the whole procedure is easy and painless.

To be continued…

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.

Garuda Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 737-800: Hong Kong to Jakarta

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Date: 22 December 2016.
Departure: 09:30
Arrival: 13:00
Flight time: 4 hours 30 minutes.
Seat: 8K, window.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Complimentary hotel shuttle.
Journey time:
10 minutes.
Arrives:
Terminal 1, departures level.
Frequency:
There is a shuttle every 15 minutes that runs on a first come, first served basis.

CHECK-IN
Terminal: Terminal 1.
Row: Row G.
Airport check-in:

  1. One counter for SkyPriority passengers.
  2. Three counters for all other passengers.

Web check-in: No available.
Self-service check-in:
Not available.

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LOUNGE
Location:
Near gate 15, one floor down.
Name of Lounge:
SkyTeam lounge.
Type of Lounge:
First & Business Class lounge for all SkyTeam carriers.
Access:
Passengers flying in Business Class and passengers with status in a frequent flyer programme of one of the SkyTeam airlines.
Toilets:
Available in the lounge.
Showers:
Available in the lounge
Food & Beverages: There is a buffet with hot and cold dishes. In addition, there is also a noodle bar where you can choose between three different types of noodle soups.
Connectivity:
Wifi is available in the lounge, password required. There are also workstations with Apple computers.
Newspapers & Magazines:
There is a selection of international magazines and newspapers at the entrance to the lounge.
Comment:
The SkyTeam lounge in Hong Kong opened just over a year ago and is the common purpose lounge for First and Business Class passengers of all the SkyTeam carriers.

The place is pretty empty when I arrive. It is a very nice lounge, with many comfortable seating options and a bright decor. From what I can tell, power plugs are available at all seats in the lounge. The only drawback is that there are no views of the apron from the lounge. However, if you get bored, there is also a Yoga room for you to do something good for both body and spirit.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers.

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CABIN & SEAT
Configuration:
2 + 2
Capacity:

  1. Business Class, 12 seats.
  2. Economy Class, 144 seats

Seat layout: The seat is not fully lie flat. It is more of a recliner, which is perfectly adequate for a day flight of only five hours. The material covering the seats has an intricate pattern design. The seats are kept in grey and dark red and give the whole cabin a very elegant look and feel.
Pitch:
42 inches.
Width: 19 inches.
AC Power:
There is a 110 V power port in every seat in Business Class.
Audio and Video: Audio and Video on demand.
Earphones: No name brand.
Connectivity: No wifi available.

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SERVICE & CREW
The crew are friendly and all smiles. As soon as I enter the cabin the young lady working the Business Class section shows me to my seats and offers to help me with my hand luggage. Once I am seated, she takes my order for a welcome drink. She returns a short while later with the fresh orange juice, which is served in a tall champagne glass, the vanity kit and a warm, scented towel with a really nice fragrance.

A pillow, blanket and the earphones have already been placed at every seat.

VANITY KIT
The vanity kit is by L’Occitane and contains:

  1. Eye shades.
  2. Socks.
  3. Slippers.
  4. A comb.
  5. Earplugs:
  6. A toothbrush.
  7. Toothpaste.
  8. Eau de toilette.
  9. Lip balm.
  10. Body lotion.
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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Fresh orange juice.
Towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel served before departure.
Pre-meal drink:
Bintang, Indonesian beer.
Amuse bouche:
Crab meat on water melon.
Choice:
There are three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Individual tray service.
Type of meal:
Lunch.
First course:
Smoked salmon with capers and Waldorf salad.
Main course:
Beef with peppercorn sauce, potatoes and vegetables.
Dessert: Pear tart.
Beverages:
Still water, coffee with dessert.
Breadbasket: A small bowl with a selection of bread is provided with butter.
Hot towel after the meal:
Comment:
The meal is served on a lacquer tray. The presentation of the food is nice and the crockery Garuda uses is very unusual and different to what you usually get on a plane. The tray arrives with the first course, bread and the dessert. Once I am finished with the starter, the plate is removed and the main course is served, again in very nice tableware.

The quality of the food is good and the presentation is very nice. It looks more like a First Class product than a Business Class one.

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After the meal service the crew are quick to remove the trays to allow passengers to spread out. Even so, they pass through the cabin regularly with snack and drinks.

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ARRIVAL
We land in Jakarta pretty much on time after a flying time of four hours and thirty minutes. Our aircraft parks at a remote stand, which I think is always a good idea. There is even a dedicated minibus for Business Class passengers to take us to the terminal. The terminal complex of Jakarta airport has an interesting design, which I suspect is intended to reflect local building traditions.

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I now have one hour and ten minutes to make my onward connection…