Once an airline banned from flying into the EU, Garuda has successfully gone through the dark period of Indonesia’s aviation and transformed themselves to a global 5-star airline (I know ratings are relative and may not 100% reflect the truth, but still, being viewed as in the same league with SQ is pretty amazing!). They have actually gained quite a number of new fans since they launched their flagship 777 product to London so I thought to myself, as a proud Indonesian, I don’t want to be left behind. This is my first time flying with GA on a flight over 3 hours and after flying them, I do think they have a stellar product that can compete with any airline in the world.
- GA 87 First Class
- London (LHR) to Jakarta (CGK
- 21:10 departure – 17:30 +1 arrival (14hr 20min flight)
Garuda has a dedicated team to cater to First Class customers which have been good in responding to my requests (seat assignment, meal, etc.) and inquiries. However, I don’t appreciate them not being able to give a sufficient information on my 2.5 hour delay and not providing alternative flight options at all. They also failed to deliver the escort service at Heathrow where someone was supposed to pick you up from the check in counter, whizz you through immigration to the lounge and to the aircraft. tThere seemed to be some miscommunication between the check-in staff and the lounge staff and the escort on my flight day but to be fair, the guy did come later and apologize.
As for the seat, Garuda offers an enclosed suite for their F customers in the form of a 55 cm wide seat that can easily be converted to a 2+ meter bed. Each suite comes with ample storage, a wardrobe, a large dining table that can easily hold a meal for two, and a 23-inch personal screen. Although the in-flight entertainment selection is somehow unimpressive, first class customers receive complimentary wi-fi that can be used for 24 hours on any GA flight so you should be able to find something to fight your boredom. I personally like what GA do with the available space within their suite and I think their built-in massage function is one of the best in the sky. On the other hand, the bedding was a bit too hard for my liking and I prefer the seat’s lounging position to its lie flat.
Where Garuda really shine is their onboard service. The purser, cabin crews and on-board chef came and introduced themselves early and addressed me by name throughout the flight and I find their service exceptional. They did not pop into my suite uninvited but came as soon as the call button is pressed, they remembered preference, and they were accommodating to my requests – for example, they served my dinner meal when other passengers ate breakfast, they gave me extra sate (love these skewered snack), and they let me use an empty suite as my extra storage (though later I moved to that suite because my IFE was broken). Plus, not only they folded my cloth after changing to/from pajamas, they also offered to help me change into slippers like in some fancy shoe stores – now that’s a first!
Despite the kerfuffle in Heathrow, I am happy to report that the ground service in Jakarta worked like a charm. I had two lovely GA staffs waiting for me on the jet bridge who addressed me by name as soon as they saw me getting off the plane and offered to take all of my carry-ons & hand luggage through immigration, customs and onto my car – they offer complimentary chauffeur service to/from any Jabodetabek address. Premium passengers can also wait in the arrival lounge as the staffs picked up their luggage from the carousel.
Overall, I don’t think Garuda has the most innovative product nor the best IFE nor the best lounge, and I think their mileage program sucks, but I think they offer a pretty solid, balanced premium product with a decent seat and a lovely meal. What distinguishes them from the rest of the pack is, from my opinion, their amazing crews and ground service. Singapore Airlines maybe the one who set the standard for premium cabin flight but on the ground, I dare say that Garuda is miles ahead of their Asian counterparts, and this makes me proud to be Indonesian. Looking forward to the next decade!