Garuda Indonesia Joining SkyTeam March 5, 2014

Back in November I wrote about the new partnership between Garuda Indonesia and Air France/KLM. Garuda Indonesia isn’t an airline you’d think you should care about, but they’re near the top of my list of first class products I really want to try on their new Boeing 777-300ER. Check out this trip report someone on FlyerTalk wrote about their new first class product — it looks amazing!

Garuda Indonesia announced their intentions to join SkyTeam in 2010, though they’ve experienced significant delays. A couple of months ago they finally set a target date of March 2014 for joining the alliance. However, they’ve just announced the specific date they plan on joining SkyTeam, which will be March 5, 2014. This marks a pretty big milestone for SkyTeam, since it’s their 20th carrier (is it sad that while I can rattle off every OneWorld and Star Alliance member airline, I can’t name more than a dozen SkyTeam carriers off the top of my head?).

I’m quite looking forward to flying Garuda Indonesia as part of a SkyTeam award at some point. They fly their new 777-300ERs to Tokyo Narita and Shanghai, so should be pretty easy to incorporate in a Delta SkyMiles award to Southeast Asia. For what it’s worth business class award space seems pretty wide open on these flights as well. This could also be a fun use of Korean Air SkyPass miles (a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner), as you can actually redeem for first class through them, which you can’t do using Delta SkyMiles.

Garuda Indonesia flies 131 aircraft to 39 domestic destinations and 20 international destinations across Asia, the Middle East, Australia, and Europe.

Garuda-Indonesia-First-Class
Garuda Indonesia’s new 777-300ER first class

Garuda-Indonesia-Executive-Class
Garuda Indonesia’s new 777-300ER executive class

Has anyone flown Garuda Indonesia’s new Boeing 777-300ER, and if so, what did you think of it?

(Tip of the hat to Mike)

Comments

  1. GA is awesome, although I’ve only flown their A332/3 in Y. Genuine, attentive service and thoughtful extra’s you won’t see anywhere else, like PDB in Economy. Their immigration on board is also one of a kind and great.

  2. What does their equipment look like from AMS? If it’s a decent looking product, that might be a decent option for east coasters–if DL or Flying Blue allow NA-EUR-Asia routings–given the difficulty in finding transcon business availability.

  3. From AMS they currently operate an A330 variant (and different Executive Class), with a technical stop in AUH. AMS should go to the 77W in the future.

  4. I flew Garuda in coach from Makassar to Surabaya. for such a short flight it was very nice. liked the service.

  5. Anyone have a concise list of their 777-300ER routes? I’d love to try this out after United isn’t a worthwhile option for UR!

  6. Garuda has some nice equipment and good service–we flew them within Indonesia in 2010. However, this is largely an insignificant SkyTeam addition from the US flyer perspective unless one is visiting Indonesia. SkyTeam continues to be the weakest alliance, with few FF benefits/perks across carriers compared to those in Star and OneWorld.

    SkyTeam is a largely irrelevant alliance. Its individual airline partnerships tend to have more value to FFs than the alliance does, and that doesn’t say much for SkyTeam.

  7. Garuda is very much a double-edges sword. Indonesia is an amazing country, and in some cases Garuda is the only game in town. I have never flown their international premium cabins, but I have been on a few domestic Garuda flights. There can be (and often are) more than a few rough edges, including…

    – Their safety record is abysmal, among the worst records of large airlines in the developing world. I am not easily spooked (I am a pilot myself, and I’m adventurous – I think severe turbulence is actually fun to ride through, so I am not at all timid about flying…). Google Garuda’s record, it will give you something to think about.
    – Their security screening procedures can be spotty at best. Now, I think most of what passes for TSA “security” is pure theater, but I believe Garuda was actually sanctioned by the FAA and international airlines for their lack of security. A personal experience I had: one time after checking in for a Garuda domestic flight, I went through the “security” passage way, which was an unattended, non-functional metal detector. Looked like it had not been used in years. There was literally nobody there, no security of any kind, and passengers simply walked from the check in counter to the gate and out to the plane, with nobody there to check anything. If you walked away from the counter with what looked like a ticket, you got on the plane. Anyone could have (literally) brought anything on that plane. Hmmm.
    – Food. Granted, these were domestic flights, but the meals served on several Garuda flights were some of the strangest, least-appealing food I have ever seen. Tastes vary, and of course “when in Rome…” but this stuff was gross and weird.
    – Garuda is notorious for cancelled flights. Given their safety record and sad history of flying into really bad weather and paying the ultimate price for it, they should probably cancel more flights. They fly in the tropics, where extreme storms (from severe thunderstorms to typhoons) are routine. They fly to really remote, rugged, mountainous, undeveloped places. They fly there in very very bad (and dangerous) weather. It’s not a good combination.
    – I shudder to think of what some of their maintenance practices may be (given the fact that even the “rich country” airlines are cutting corners on maintenance).

    Admittedly, it has been 2 or 3 years since I flew on Garuda. Perhaps they have cleaned up their act and are now following all the best practices of responsible airlines. Maybe they have much higher standards for long-haul international service than for the domestic flights I experienced (I sure hope so…).

    The photos of their international premium cabins certainly look nice. And of course it’s great to have another option for this amazing part of the world. Garuda can bring you to some of the most incredible, exotic locations on the planet. And I’m sure the flight attendants are cute. But this is one airline that I’m a bit hesitant to fly on (one of only a very small number). I’m not saying I wouldn’t fly on Garuda (I have before) or that you shouldn’t, but I would think twice and then thrice before getting on one of their flights.

  8. Looks like NEW bird is scheduled for the following:

    CGK-PVG
    CGK-NRT
    CGK-SYD

    Perfect way to route to Australia using Skymiles! Same J seats as the new AZ J class. Fantastic.

  9. @Bobo

    While what you say about security screening is true I don’t think it’s Garuda specific, I think it’s just Indonesia… I passed thru the whole Makassar airport without going thru any kind of security or a metal detector, no one ever looked at my passport or in my bag and I didn’t even pay a departure fee… the country is still developing and sometimes is a mess. I didn’t feel I was in any kind of danger tho.
    And this was the new airport, one of the much better ones in Indonesia.

  10. I flew Garuda intra-Indonesia on a couple of segments earlier this year in Y. I was really happy with their service/product.

  11. Is it possible to route to Australia via Asia with Skypesos?

    @Bobo/Lantean: It’s not specific to Garuda or even to Indonesia. I’ve had similar experiences flying within Vietnam. Heck, if you’re on a non-jet domestic flight within New Zealand you can also just walk directly out onto the tarmac, and NZ is hardly a third world country. I guess they’re not that concerned about someone crashing a Dash-8 into Mt. Doom or a flock of sheep.

  12. I never would have looked twice at Sky Team until I saw Garuda was joining. They are a huge addition for Aussie based travelers, especially since Indonesia is on our back doorstep! OK, KQ is also coming in handy for the Africa 2015 trip, but Garuda is what would keep my interested in Sky Team. I am hoping they get a credit card partner like all the other SE Asian airlines have in Australia.

  13. @ Lantean/Arcanum – No disagreement there – what passes for “security” can be quite different in the developing world, and I tend to take that with a chuckle and a shrug (honestly, I’d trade what we have to go through for that). The lax security was not really a major concern of mine. Crashing into remote mountains while shooting a landing in a severe thunderstorm is more of an issue for me.

    And yep, the new airport terminal in Makassar is a major improvement over the old one, but as you say, it does have its oddities.

    And I didn’t even mention that Garuda flight I took that had us flying into Jogjakarta while the nearby volcano was doing a major eruption, with ash falling all around, the sky black at noon, the runways covered with ash (looked like gray snow) and everyone in the airport wearing surgical masks, looking at us like we were crazy coming off the plane. After landing, on the way to our hotel 30 minutes from the airport you could feel the ground shake and the mountain went BOOM every few minutes – the army was out evacuating people (my cab driver said “no problem!” as he got out to try and chip a small hole in the accumulated ash on the windshield so he could see ahead).

    Garuda was the only airline that didn’t cancel all their flights to Jogja that day. Ah, the romance of adventure travel.

    But you have to admit, those lie-flat seats in C sure look good, don’t they? And availability is GREAT! 🙂

  14. I actually work for GA’s wholesaler company and I’m so proud to see how much of a 180 GA has done. To think just 8 years ago, their safety record was so bad they were banned from EU skies. Now, those CEO’s, cabin crew, pilots, maintenance people are no longer there, completely rinsed out! GA has endured the biggest renaissance in 21st Century aviation! In 2011, they were announced by SkyTeam as the World’s Most Improved Airline by Skytrax, and in 2013 have been announced Best Regional Airline, Best Economy Class Airline, and 8th Best Airline in the World! And now with this First Class, it’s codeshare partner with EY, and joining the SkyTeam Alliance, it’s amazing!! GA are also planning to resume flights to LAX soon!

    Also, they were meant to fly their 777’s to LGW nonstop however due to runway restrictions in CGK, they have postponed until August 2014 time I think. I hope you do a review of them shortly Ben!

  15. Hi Ben,

    I flew GA from Sydney to Bali on their new 333 and then onwards to SHA via Jakarta on the 777 in Business Class.

    The 777 has a vastly better on board product than the 333. I also cleared Indonesian Immigration on board the plane, so no need to dela with the queues on arrival…. awesome.

    GA are now considerbally better than Qantas in J class in Asia and I will be flying them again.

    I am told they will fly Jakarta to London non stop in 2014

  16. @ Arcanum — Yep, you sure can route to the US to Australia via Asia as long as you’re flying a published routing, which shouldn’t be too tough.

  17. @ choi — Presently they only publish a chart for coach and business class travel on Garuda for that route. That being said, once they join SkyTeam, the first class roundtrip partner rate between Southeast and Northeast Asia will be 75,000 miles in business class or 100,000 miles in first class.

  18. When redeeming Delta Sky Miles to book an award that includes flights on Garuda Indonesia, will there be fuel surcharges?

  19. @ Brandon — There’s no way to know for sure yet. Delta does impose mild fuel surcharges for travel on most of their Asian airline partners, so it’s definitely a possibility.

  20. One of the major road blocks Garuda will run into IMO if they’re trying to compete with SQ/CX (and SQ has this problem too, but Singapore should have much more premium O/D traffic) is how far out of the way CGK is for connecting passengers on many premium routes. Geographically, it’s not really “between” much except Australia and Asia/Europe, and there’s a lot of competition for that already with QF, CX, SQ, EK, EY, QR, etc.

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