Garuda Indonesia’s First Class — WOW!

Garuda Indonesia is an airline that’s undergoing an incredible transformation. They have a not-so-great safety record and had an old fleet, though are really trying to get competitive recently, especially as Garuda Indonesia just joined SkyTeam a few months ago.

Their new 777-300ER looks incredible, with private first class suites and a soft product that surpasses it.

I even linked to a Garuda Indonesia trip report last December, noting how impressed I was.

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

But a new trip report just emerged on airlines.net of a flight between Jakarta and Amsterdam in first class on their 777-300ER, and it looks like it might just be the greatest thing… ever…

It’s quite possibly the most detailed trip report I’ve ever read, though is well worth a read. I figured I’d share a few of my favorite parts below.

First of all, Garuda has a first class call center you can contact in advance with (seemingly) any request:

I initially gave the call center a call out of curiosity, but later ended up making friends with the sole agent that always answered every one of my hundred or so calls that followed up until the day of departure.

Apart from the usual select my seat, add my frequent flier services I was able to do here, I was also asked if I wanted ‘anything’ specific on board. And they really meant it! You can more or less ask the world of them, and they will see to it.

My first request wasn’t too creative because I was taken by surprise. I asked for a Bloody Mary which at first was assumed to be a standard offer that can be whipped up on any flight. But after several subsequent calls, I was informed that the proper ingredients of the Bloody Mary are not widely available in Indonesia but that they are working on confirming my request.

My second request was to eat ‘Gado-Gado’ on board -an Indonesian salad with peanut sauce- over and above the standard catering, naturally. Again, my request was confirmed with a very polite “Mr. Hawi, we are pleased to confirm to you that your request to have Gado Gado onboard GA 88 from Jakarta to Amsterdam is confirmed”.

And my third and final request, was to be greeted on arrival from my Malindo flight from Kuala Lumpur -some 13 hours prior to my Amsterdam departure- and escorted to the lounge. And of course, my third request was again confirmed.

Now I had my Bloody Mary, my Gado-Gado, and my meet & assist all secured for my flight, and this was over and above all the other -slightly more important- details like my seat selection, frequent flier, and confirmed ticket.

They even have a meet & greet service. Unlike at other airlines, it’s not one person “greeting” you, but rather four(!!!):

My Meet & Assist was promptly at the gate waiting for my arrival. But whilst I only expected one person, I was instead greeted by a group of four First Class Agents that were there to attend only to me. One was Shabeera, who was my personal First Class agent, the other two were Rama and Mufti who were there to attend to my luggage (one each for carry on, and checked baggage), and the last one was Chahia whose sole purpose was to handle my documentation and related procedures such as immigration, checking in for my connecting flight, and what have you.

As you’ll recall earlier, the guy requested to be greeted on arrival in Amsterdam. Not only was he greeted, but he was picked up in a car and driven to a private lounge:

Bidding farewell to the crew upon disembarkation, I was quite excited to be at Schiphol again! It is my favorite European airport –we go a long way back- and I was just so happy to be transiting through it again.

However, after seeing yet another white placard with my name printed on it right outside Door 1L, I was yet again taken by surprise! This First Class experience did not end at touchdown; there is more!!!

A friendly lady escorts me out of the aerobridge down the steps leading outside to a black car that is parked right next to the aircraft! Holy Cow, I am wide awake all over again at this point!

I was driven to a private lounge, where I was offered a light snack and some drinks, while the agents liaised with KLM staff on my check-in for my connecting KLM flight, and my handover to the KLM staff.

Wow! I’ve had a lot of airlines do a good job customizing service, though I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like that.

Too bad Garuda Indonesia first class isn’t all that attainable on miles. Garuda Indonesia joined SkyTeam in March, which in theory means you should be able to redeem Korean Air SkyPass miles for it. That being said, last time I called Korean Air’s SkyPass department to inquire, they told me that they could only book economy or business class.

In theory you could book directly through Garuda Indonesia’s GarudaMiles program. The catch is that the redemption rates are high, though on the plus side they are transfer partners with Citi ThankYou points. So it’s not impossible to book on miles.

Of the airlines that I haven’t flown first class, I think Garuda Indonesia tempts me more than any other… perhaps along with Transaero’s Imperial Class.

(Tip of the hat to Bruno)

Comments

  1. Besides AMS, Lucky do you know on which routes they they the 777-300er with this F product?

    Maybe its worthwhile to try korean again to see if you can book it?

  2. It seems that this flight is very similar to your experience with Air France, (for the escort/lounge) Malaysia, (food) and Etihad. (seat) It just was written in a different prospective that made it look really great, versus your “perfectionist” perspective when reviewing airlines. This report talked about the good parts throughout the TR, and the bad parts at the end, versus you, who does the opposite. Just putting a little prospective here. 🙂

  3. I flew them this week (domestically). I had three flights, all in economy. The first flight from Yogakarta to Bali was quite pleasant on a 737, and featured a great personal entertainment system, sandwich, and a nicer than usual inflight blanket. The second flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo (Komodo Island) was fine for a one-class ATR-72 600.

    However, the return flight from Labuan Bajo to Bali was a nightmare. I had a flight scheduled for 3:50 PM. It was a few minutes late. At 4:00 PM, we were told that the airport had closed at 4:00 and that our flight was cancelled. Actually, there was no anouncement of cancelation. After waiting 30 minutes past departure time, I went to the gate and was told it was cancelled. The Garuda Staff the the airport refused to talk to me about rebooking flights. I really needed to get to Bali for a connecting flight back to America (via Beijing so I could take advantage of the 72-hour free transit entry and visit China for the first time).

    At first Garuda staff pretended not to understand English, though I overheard decent English at check-in before the cancellation. Almost none of the passengers on board were Indonesian. I speak good Indonesian (as a second language), and then they just went away from the ticket counter to the back room. After 30 minutes of a huge crowd at the ticket counter demanding answers, they informed us that they would take us to a hotel for the night in Labuan Bajo and that a Garuda representative would tell us what our flight option (for the next day) would be at 8 PM.

    At 8:30 PM (they weren’t on time). Some Garuda officials arrived at the hotel, as well as a half-dozen police officers. The police officers detained a British man who had yelled at a ticket agent when she refused to assist him after the cancellation (he missed his connecting flight). I don’t know what happened to him. He ended up going with the 6 police officers and didn’t appear the next morning for our rebooked flight to Bali.

    Although the Garuda officials said they would have answers regarding flights at 8:00 PM, at 9:00 PM they finally told us that a replacement flight would depart at 11:15 AM the next day. I was relieved, since it meant that I would probably make my connecting flight if the flight actually departed on time. However, Garuda also claimed that the Labuan Bajo office couldn’t issue international tickets for people who missed connections, and that those passengers would have to go to the office once in Bali. What is incredibly frustrating is that they could have told us that at the airport, but they pretended they didn’t have answers.

    Our flight departed the next day and I barely made my connecting flight. I thought Garuda was a pleasant airline until this cancellation. I’ve had many cancelled flights, but the way this was handled was really unprofessional, waiting nearly six hours to tell passengers ANY information. I also have a feeling this is not an uncommon occurance, as the flight is always scheduled to depart at 3:50 PM and the airport still closes at 4:00 PM. I feel really bad for the people who were actually on the flight from Bali to Labuan Bajo. The airport closed just before they were to land, so they had to fly back to Bali and then fly back the next day.

    Bottom line: I liked Garuda until I had to deal with flight issues. Then they became uncooperative and really unprofessional and did not provide timely assistance to stranded passengers. Also, Indonesian police are corrupt.

  4. Read both trip reports and I must say both hard and soft products look amazing and up there with the best. But what nags me at the back of the head is the question of just how sustainable is Garuda with operating this plane and the F product considering the routes it operates on (mostly mid-haul with only AMS and JED as long-haul for now), Garuda’s route structure, and loads (on the AMS trip report and the outbound NRT trip report the reviewer was the only occupant in F). That and the sheer amount of effort put in for the experience in the lounge and butler service, and all I think of in my head is “cost?” If the product works out for Garuda, brilliant. But color me skeptical…

    Would love to see a TR on this product from you, Lucky, if you’re able to combine it with some other Skyteam carrier TRs…

    Although I haven’t seen a Garuda business class TR yet… (the one with the Alitalia/Air Berlin/Etihad style business product)

  5. @ Lucky, I remember you were going to take a Garuda Indonesia flight this past June. Hope you get a chance to experience it next time around. In addition to Tokyo and Shanghai, they fly the 777 to Bali (although the first class isn’t open for purchase) and to Gatwick (from Amsterdam).

    @ Jacob: Usually Garuda ground services is great, but it’s hit and miss at smaller airports. Sorry to hear about your experience.

  6. Looks very appealing. But, I wonder how long till the novelty wears off? Which markets is Garuda trying to capture with this?

  7. I regularly read his trip reports as well as yours, Lucky, and I find his entertaining and detailed as well! He was even on the inaugural Emirates A380 flight DXB-JFK back in 2008! I hope you meet him someday. Awesome guy and he and his friend Sam Chui (amazing photographer) are hilarious when they do trips in business or first class together.
    I’d say Garuda First is more possible to attain through miles than Etihad Residences though both are expensive. 90k Garuda Miles for one-way NRT-CGK on Garuda First whereas it’s only 40K AAdvantage miles NRT-CGK on JAL First.

  8. Wow… that’s really amazing! I have to try soon! But if I fly F into CGK and connect into J to the destination. Would I enter the F lounge and have all the transfer service?? I suppose so since this guy had the nice lounge in AMS and transfer to next Y flight even on different airlines.

    I think the one that is closest to this service is Air France (the current seat/entertainment isn’t) future First seat that introduce later this month. With all the lounge/lounge food/escort service.

    This put all other Asian carriers into shame. None (except Thai) had any type of escort/transfer service. But Thai fail on other things on board while other Asian carriers are great on board but zero on the ground. SIN Private room maybe nice but start to go downhill in my opinion.

  9. For those interested, VIP services can be purchased at Schiphol (not that I would personally do this) :
    LINK : http://video.schiphol.nl/reizigers/op-schiphol/privium/Rates_VIP_service_lounges_2014.pdf

    Also, a LINK to the AMS-Schiphol VIP services video :
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmT44QQvk6c

    I seem to recall reading somewhere (can’t find a link to verify) that Air France La Première passengers starting their journey at AMS received Schiphol VIP Services (for example, those flying AMS-CDG-SIN on a La Première configured long haul Air France flight)

  10. Hi Lucky,

    Here is a Garuda First Class TR video of an Australian guy from NRT-CGK. And yes, the service does not end at touch down. A limo service taking him to his hotel in Jakarta.

  11. Told ya Ben, that you should try this. 4 people greets, pick up by car when landing, the only passenger on board because not many people really can afford this, which means your seat and bed could be 2 different place like Lufthansa. But, they don’t have krug, or Dom, or taittinger, hahaha

  12. Well, if you really can ask for anything on the call center, perhaps you can ask for krug to be available on board?

  13. @ Lucky – are you going to try booking this using cash? There must be some tricks available to lower prices but even direct AMSCGK rates are relatively reasonable. ITA shows $5600 for one-way and ~$7000 round-trip. So not as ridiculously expensive as some other F products out there.

  14. Having recently flown Heathrow to jakarta Sadly the facility to call with special dining requests is no longer available , they have downgraded and now only serve the business class menu with one extra choice of main course .

    Hard product is still good and the service second to none

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