Garuda Indonesia has had a very busy 2014 revamping their entire business class product and service. I attended a press event in December to see their brand journey to excellence which led Garuda Indonesia to winning the 2014 Skytrax Award for World’s Best Crew.
I was able to get a quick glimpse of what the service and new food / products were like as a cabin crew served me lunch at the catering grounds.
Last month, it was time to experience this for real when I flew to Bali.
Flight Review: Garuda Indonesia
Flight number and Route: GA 715 Sydney to Denpasar (Bali) , Business Class
Seat numbers: 6H & 6K
Departure time: 10:00 AM
Flight Time: 5 Hours 32 Minutes
The check-in desks of Garuda Indonesia in Sydney are in desks I or J, which is smack in the middle of the departure level. It’s a very busy zone especially during the peak departure time of 10 AM.
The line was short and check-in process was very quick and pain-free. It was at the check-in desk too where I found out that there are no more Visa on-board service with Garuda Indonesia. I believe this is in conjunction with the Indonesian Government’s plan to waive the visa fee for Australians. (Key emphasis on plan, as I’ve heard and read news that the visa-free arrival starts 01 January, but this is yet to take effect. )
Lounge / Boarding
Garuda uses the Qantas Business Class Lounge for it’s Business Class passengers. We did not use this as we were on a media ticket.
Boarding did not start until about 15 minutes before take-off (so it was later than the planned boarding time) and passengers were getting antsy at the gate. It’s such a pleasant surprise that when boarding finally commenced, it was done so quickly and smoothly that we actually took off in time.
I made a quick video of our flight from take off to landing, with an emphasis on the in-flight food (what else? 🙂
But here’s more :
The Airbus A330-300 is a two-class aircraft, seating configuration is 2-2-2 on Business and 2-4-2 on Economy.
Drinks were immediately given after boarding. Then our designated cabin crew approached us to ask what we wanted for lunch after take off.
There’s never a shortage of smiles on this flight. We were greeted with a smile, given drinks/food with a smile, met requests with a smile. If you just watched the video, you would have seen how our cabin crew almost literally radiated sunshine! It’s true that smiles are infectious because as she was talking to me, I felt my cheeks starting to quiver from prolonged smiling as well. (note to self: must smile more!)
There was also the In-Flight Chef, who came around to refill our drinks. I only belatedly knew he was the in-flight chef. (Watch out for the return flight review where we got to interact with the In-Flight Chef more 😉
All crew were extremely attentive in giving us fresh towels, refilling our drinks, and asking how we are finding things.
With the flight departing at 10:00 AM Sydney time (arriving 1PM Bali Time), lunch was served.
Garuda also has a snack menu called “In-Between Fuel” which you can order anytime during the flight.
It consists of:
- – Sate Beef, Chicken Lilit
- – Indonesian Nasi Goring with Fried Marinated Chicken
- -Japanese Hot Udon Noodle Soup, Prawn Tempura
- – Cut Fresh Fruit
- – Nachos, Chilli and Cheese
For a flight that’s just over 5 hours, there was hardly anytime to eat a second meal , as the lunch itself was already a full-on course (as you may have seen from the video)
Zombie opted for the Japanese Meal which I had the opportunity of sampling last December at the catering grounds. One thing I should say is that all the cutlery and dining ware used for the business class meals are full size and weight. Those square plates were really sold and heavy. Garuda Indonesia had their own buyers source these wares in the Middle East and Japan. I especially loved the small teapot!
Garuda Indonesia’s concept and goal is for passengers to feel they are dining in an actual restaurant and not in a plane.
So this starter tray consists of: smoked eel, simmered eggplant salmon sushi, silken egg custard and purple potato. A side of Japanese Daikon and sugar snap pea salad with sesame soy dressing was served.
And this is the Main Course:
Smoked and Grilled Chicken, Miso and Lime Glaze with Charred Leeks and Taro. Steamed Japanese Rice with Soya Beans and Black Sesame Seeds, and Shiro Miso Soup.
The dessert for the Japanese meal is Mango Sponge Cake with blueberry Coulis and Strawberries with Coconut Ice Cream. I was able to try this and it was really good! The coconut ice cream went really well with the sponge cake.
While this dessert was really amazing, I found that it was an odd pairing with the theme of Japanese meal (perhaps some Mochi Ice Cream or Green Tea Ice Cream?)
Meanwhile, I opted for the European Meal because I’ve already had a taste of the Japanese Meal in December, and the other option (Indonesian Degustation), though I was tempted to get, I resisted because I knew we were in for weeks of Indonesian food!
The starter was Corn Chowder Soup With Black Olive and Tomato Salsa. Though abit lumpy, it was really tasty. The sweetness of corn balanced out the stock used. It’s interesting to know that they really employ the ‘restaurant method’ even when serving soup. If you watched the short clip, you would have seen the cabin crew first deliver the plate with just the small dot of salsa, then later poured the soup into the plate. I suppose it’s also safer doing it that way in an aircraft, rather than carrying a shallow bowl with hot soup.
Seared Barramundi Fillet with Verbena Lemon Oil, Beetroot and Potato Mash. My mouth just watered typing that while looking at the photo. I really enjoyed this dish. The barramundi was sweet and succulent with the skin seared just to the right amount of sea saltiness.
I was also served a Chef’s Cheese Board after this, and a pudding dessert.
Dessert was Warm Apple & Butterscotch Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream and Raspberry Coulis. This was good, though I enjoyed the other dessert more (from the Japanese meal).
Entertainment / WiFi
Well needless to say we were really quite full after lunch and I was ready for a siesta. But not before twiddling with the entertainment system and watching my favourite tv show to watch on a plane.
The Entertainment System is really simple to use. A selection of 85 feature films, 10 channels of sitcom and tv, 48 music albums and 25 interactive games.
What I watched:
Always without fail, I look for this TV Show when I’m on flights. I’m a sucker for this Canadian show! I know, I know..it’s just brainless fun and I really end up laughing out loud with tears streaming down my face. (So I try not to watch this when I’m travelling alone)
I always wonder though. Because these episodes and pranks are always shot in either Quebec or Montreal– don’t they get found out? I mean, I only get to watch this on flights but I already know what some of the actors look like. I wish they did something like that in Sydney 🙂
WiFi is available on board for the above rates. No time to go online as I was busy eating and laughing 🙂
The Amenity Kit is from L’Occitane featuring their classic Verbena line. Hand Lotion, a lip balm, a small bottle of Eau de Toilette, Socks, Toothbrush and toothpaste and a foldable brush.
And Garuda Indonesia has bagged another award for this. They won the 2013 Airline Amenity Bag Awards for Business Class in the Asia / Oceania region. I didn’t know there was such an award, I would love to sit in the panel for that! #Dreamjob
There’s a smallish-medium sized water bottle in every seat, which is a good size for a 5.5 hour flight. There’s also a USB charging port per seat.
Noise cancelling headphones and handheld entertainment control. No explanation necessary, they are pretty basic and functional.
There are 3 in-flight magazines – Arcade, an in-flight shopping catalogue, Stars for their in-flight entertainment and Colours, the main in-flight magazine for Garuda Indonesia.
The most frequently asked question I got: Does Garuda Indonesia have a lie-flat seat?
Answer: Almost. At 165 Degrees, this is all the recline I need to have a comfortable seat on flights less than 6 hours.
I didn’t believe Zombie when he said that I sometimes sleep like a corpse. Now I know. (on good days I’ll have an open mouth)
But anyway, you can see that at it’s flattest, there is still an angle. More than comfortable enough but this will be felt for sure if the flight was longer.
For me, blankets are a big factor in getting a good in-flight sleep and I really loved Garuda Indonesia’s business class blankets.
It’s extremely velvety with the right amount of plush. Really perfect for long-haul flights, where I imagine Garuda would have fully flat bed seats.
Seat pitch is 74 inches (187.9 cm). Width of 20.8 inches (53cm). Lots and lots of leg room, though bear in mind too that I am not so tall at 5’4 inches.
The lavatory is kept tidy, clean and well-stocked throughout the flight. The amenities are full-sized L’Occitane toiletries consisting of a hand lotion, facial mist and Eau de Toilette.
Garuda Indonesia has really upped their game, BIG TIME. I have not flown their business class product before ( I only did a business class inspection more than 2 years ago) and what I just flew was really a better product.
Service is at it’s premium. No request is too hard (not that I requested anything complicated) but you can definitely feel the warmth from the cabin crew.
The in-flight meal: the presentation, choices, preparation and food itself are quite impressive. With the addition of an In-Flight Chef (who personally prepares the food on the ground, and also creates some of the food while on air), and the addition of the “In-Between Fuel” are elements that make this comparable to other premium Business Class airlines (not just on the Sydney – Denpasar route).
And another factor worth mentioning is the extremely competitive airfare that Garuda Indonesia has. Return Business Class seats begin at AUD 1662.04 for a promo fare to AUD 3,454.04 on a fully flexible fare. (rates vary between departure dates and seasons).
Very recently, Garuda Indonesia has been officially inducted as a 5-Star Airline by SkyTraxGaruda Indonesia is now officially a 5-star airline according to Skytrax
And what exactly are the requirements to be a 5-star airline?
Here are the words from SkyTrax itself, enumerating the qualities which they are confident that Garuda Indonesia has met:
An airline operating long haul flights need to have full-flat seats in both First Class and Business Class. Economy class 5-Star seat pitch requirements have traditionally been set at 32-33 inches, but with newer slimline seats this is an area that Skytrax discuss with an individual airline to determine personal “seat space” that customers receive. The width and cabin layout (configuration) for Economy class seats is an area of discussion and change in the rating requirements for 5-Star airlines.
We do not require an airline to have 100 per cent seat type consistency at time of 5-Star Certification, but Skytrax do need to see a formal commitment and schedule that as an airline adds new aircraft or retrofits existing aircraft, these 5-Star seat products will be provided.
Other key requirements within 5-Star rating include AVOD options for IFE, minimum comfort amenity standards (blankets, pillows etc), catering choices/standards. Cabin staff service techniques/efficiency combine with specific soft-service/attitudinal areas that are used to determine rating. For Airport service ratings, the airline is assessed on it’s home base airport, where we have 5-Star targets that cover all product and service topics associated with arriving, transfer and departing passengers.
There are currently eight airlines that have met the 5-star qualifications (with 1 being under review due to recent circumstances), see the list here.
Garuda Indonesia flies to Denpasar from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Their Brisbane flights have ceased from 01 February 2015.
Have you flown Garuda Indonesia before? How was your experience?
Jean & Zombie tested this flight as guests of Garuda Indonesia, but all thoughts and opinions are their own.
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
It has even changed from when I flew them just last year! The Japanese meal looks fantastic I must say! 😀
Seana - Sydney, Kids, Food + Travel says
Oh that meal looks divine. Such a good length of flight too, long enough to enjoy some free time and good meal but not too long at all. I know what you mean by flat beds being the best, once tried never forgotten.
Wisnu Nugroho says
Amazing trip report. I am so proud with Garuda Indonesia…
Thanks for sharing…
Anna @ shenANNAgans says
Look at all your leg room. I still haven’t gained full use of my left butt cheek (not that your butt cheek really does too much) post flight with Ethihad from Singapore to Brisbane a month ago. Ouch! I felt like I spent 9hrs in the fetal position, in the end… it was less painful moving than moving. LOL! And the food…. Mmmm, I didnt bother with my food either. Rather scarred from my last flying experience I am. Looks like yours was amazing.
Jean Holy Smithereens says
Oh no, I feel you — last time I flew Etihad on economy (and it was the codeshare with Virgin Australia too so techinically it was a VA flight) it was from Abu Dhabi to Sydney more than 13 hours- I felt paralyzed from waist down after!! hahaha! I think next time I will have to take painkillers 😉
Monique@The Urban Mum says
Hello, This looks amazing – I have not flown Garuda since the ‘dark ages’, and it certainly did not have the same services then. I was so lucky (of course at the time I did not appreciate just how lucky) when I worked for airlines as I would regularly sit up the pointy end. Before the days of flat beds et al – last trip we treated the family to QF Biz Class – and I have to say I now understand the value…Looking forward to putting Garuda on my shopping list – fabulous review thank you! x
Jean Holy Smithereens says
Hi Monique, yes I’d say Garuda is really now ready to be pitted up against the bigger airlines to compete for business class 🙂 Oh and I think Qantas also have just released their new business class products on the A330s. It’s great to be flying business these days, as more and more airlines revamp their products!
Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid says
We flew Garuda multiple times (London – Singapore, Singapore – Bali, Bali – Sydney) and we loved every flight even though we were flying economy. Seats were comfortable, entertainment was great and the food was delicious (such yummy Indonesian options.) The cabin crew go out of their way to make you feel comfortable and all our flights left on time. I couldn’t recommend them highly enough and would definitely be my first choice airline, to Bali and beyond!
Jean Holy Smithereens says
Hi Sammie, thanks for the visit and comment! Oh I’m glad to hear you had a positive experience with Garuda! I have not flown them outside of Asia (or Bali for that matter) and have always wondered how it would be to fly them to Europe. The fares are very attractive!
That’s very informative and interesting ; I never consider to book with that company, but I will definitely check it for future trips !
Jean Holy Smithereens says
Hi Francois! Yes maybe 5-10 years ago I wouldnt have considered either but they really revamped and rebranded big time. The value you get for their business class fares are unbeatable.
The Guy Who Flies says
This is yet another fantastic flight review by your good self. Lots of detail and very thorough. It looks like you had a great experience.
I also loved how you were able to sample the 2 different types of meals (Japanese and European). Also fab video too.
Media flight tickets, hmm how do I get hold of those???
My wife and I decided to leave the low cost carriers behind and go with Garuda Perth – Jakarta recently and didn’t regret it. Especially on the way back – there was a powerful cyclone near Port Hedland and we wondered how they would avoid it. The pilot said there would be some slight turbulence. Nearly an hour after takeoff my wife pointed out that we were still over land. I looked at the trip map on the screen and saw that we had flown directly east right to the tip of Java before turning towards Derby in Western Australia. Just past Derby we turned right and headed for Perth over Meekatharra, well inland of the usual route. And the pilot was right, there was only slight turbulence. We had the feeling that a low cost airline would not have gone to quite the same lengths to keep us comfortable.
Jean Holy Smithereens says
I’m so glad to hear of your positive experience with Garuda. I agree, you do get what you pay for. I certainly don’t mind paying extra to get the unmatched kind of service and care in a full service airline.
Mike Duffy says
We (my wife an myself) are leaving next week from Melbourne flying to Bali for three days, thence Bali to Singapore (transit) then Singapore to Heathrow in business class. We are looking forward very much to the “Garuda experience” as the last time we flew with them about 20 years ago we found their business class product absolutely woeful with some of the worst airline food we have ever been presented with. (I couldn’t eat it but my did and ended up with “Bali Belly”).
Jean Holy Smithereens says
Hi Mike, your itinerary sounds fantastic. Great way to make use of an Asian layover before heading to Europe.
Yes, Garuda has had a remarkable makeover in the last 5 years. They went from having one of the most notorious reputations to acutally winning Skytrax recognition of being a 5-star airline (2 years in a row now I think). I attended their press event where they showed in detail how they were able to do this turnaround and it took them years of research and applying that methodology. Quite impressive. I hope you have an enjoyable flight!