When you are flying business or first class, do you savour and enjoy the moment and relax? Or do you also wonder what goes behind the scenes on what makes a product and service go smoothly?
I’m more of the latter. Even after 10 years in the travel industry, I still want to know how airlines make themselves more competitive and how staff are trained.
So I was only too thrilled to be invited by Garuda Airlines to have an in-depth look at how they have revamped their First, Business and Economy class services.
Held at the Alpha Flight Catering Services in Mascot, I was able to see first hand exactly what meals go on-board every flight that leaves Sydney to Denpasar or Jakarta.
The idea behind the preparation and presentation is to give passengers a feeling of dining at a restaurant, rather than inside an aircraft at 37,000 feet.
And so Garuda Indonesia now employs In-Flight Chef on all it’s long haul flights. Garuda classifies their long haul flights as any flight more than 5 hours so all Sydney – Jakarta (and vice versa) and Sydney – Denpasar (and vice versa) flights will have in-flight chefs.
The chefs are actual chefs from 5-star hotels around the world, and when they joined Garuda, they underwent cabin crew training, so not only can these guys and girls cook, but they can save lives too!
They weren’t mincing their words when they said they wanted to recreate a restaurant dining feel up in the air. All plates and cutlery were full-sized and quite heavy.
The development team of Garuda Indonesia event went as far as the Middle East and Japan just to source the right knives and plates for the service. On a side note, wouldn’t that be a fun job? A shopper for in-flight products!
Their meals all consist of a wide variety of Asian, Western and Vegetarian choices. You can also pre-order special requests 24 hours prior to departure on their website.
They also showcased what First Class passengers get on board.
I am really loving the soft and cushioned slippers. The cabin crew will take off the passenger’s shoes, stow it away for them and put the slippers on for them. That’s mighty impressive though I myself would prefer to do that on my own.
Business class passengers receive an amenity kit with products from L’occitane. Even the lavatory toiletries are full-sized L’Occitane products.
We were then shown what went on their re-training program. For the last year, Garuda Indonesia had been very busy in creating a whole new experience for passengers.
They did not really re-brand, but more like re-emphasised the core values of Garuda Indonesia and tried to incorporate that into their overall service (from ground to air).
Garuda Indonesia hired a third party product and service developer who explained the way they re-hauled and re-programmed things for improvement.
I really found it interesting that they have broken down into 7 different stages the journey of which a passenger goes through from boarding to landing.
They defined the feeling of a passenger per stage s/he goes through and perceived the needs s/he may need on every stage.
All existing cabin crew of Garuda Indonesia went on a re-training for 6 weeks for this program.
And if you are wondering if this re-training had been successful (as I have wondered too),
They just recently won the Skytrax Awards for 2014 Best Crew. Congratulations!
And then lunch time came. We were served meals by actual cabin crew (who I assumed were on layover?) and served actual meals that were concurrently being served on the Garuda Indonesia Sydney- Denpasar flight which took off about an hour earlier.
Based on the food alone, I can definitely agree that the presentation, serving, and even taste are unlike any business class plane food I’ve had.
Normally not a big beef person but the beef satay was my favourite among the three! So extremely tender and cooked very well. That’s saying quite a lot as I’m normally a seafood person.
And their dessert. Who knew the combination of coconut and strawberries would be this good? The slice of sponge cake at the bottom gave the entire dessert a very ice cream cake-like taste.
Now of course all these were tasted and ‘tested’ on ground, and they fared perfectly. But I’m sure you agree that nothing compares to the real service and product on an actual flight.
And I’m looking forward to experiencing this ‘for real’ when we fly Garuda Indonesia next month, so do stay tuned for that! 🙂
The Guy says
Hey Jean, this is fabulous that you’ve got to take a look behind the scenes. I’ve often wondered myself what it is like.
The on board chef sounds like a fabulous idea then there is a better chance of things being made as you like them.
Many congratulations to Garuda on their award. I’ve yet to fly with them so this is great to hear they are so highly regarded.
Jean Holy Smithereens says
Hi Guy, yes it was really exciting for me to see this. Almost like a behind the scene makings of a movie.
And having the chef on board also guarantees fresher meals! Indeed, very impressive for an airline to be able to achieve an award with all their new program only being rolled out in less than 2 years 🙂 Yes it will be my first time to fly Garuda also, I cannot wait!
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
So interesting to the First Class on Garuda! I’ve only done Business Class. Hehe I would prefer to take my own shoes off and put my own shoes on too 😛
Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel says
Ah, I’ve only ever flown economy on Garuda and would love to try the other classes. Especially on that overnight flight home from Bali, I am so never doing that economy again! These meals look terrific, very well presented. If I could choose any meal… hmm…. a gigantic healthy salad, as that’s what I always feel like eating on flights.
Jean Holy Smithereens says
I don’t know why all flights from Bali to any city in Australia, on any airline leave so late at night, all painful red-eye flights. I would rather have it the other way around, I can bear economy from Sydney to Bali on a red-eye because that would mean I can un-do all the pain because well, you’re in Bali. But to endure a red-eye (even on business as you don’t really get much of a decent sleep given the 6 hour flight) AFTER your holiday and get back to real life…ahh, the pinnacle of a 1st world problem 😉
Katrina Evans-Murphy says
Can’t wait to experience later this month. 🙂