Garuda Indonesia Gets One Step Closer To Launching US Flights

In late June I wrote about how Garuda Indonesia was hoping to launch flights to the US starting in 2017. That might seem pretty random, but for those of us who are airline product enthusiasts, Garuda Indonesia is known for their incredible first class product, and in general is known for their friendly service.

One of the big roadblocks that Garuda Indonesia faced for launching flights to the US was that they weren’t allowed to operate flights to the US (minor detail, I know!). The country of Indonesia didn’t have a Category 1 safety rating with the US Federal Aviation Administration, meaning they haven’t been allowed to operate flights to the US. However, they were optimistic about getting their rating improved, and it looks like that has finally happened.

The FAA announced today that Indonesia now complies with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards and has been granted a Category 1 rating.

Per a press release from the FAA:

The FAA first assessed Indonesia’s civil aviation authority in September 1997 and found it in compliance with ICAO standards and then lowered the rating from Category 1 to Category 2 in April 2007. While under a Category 2 rating, the country either lacked laws or regulations necessary to oversee air carriers in accordance with minimum international standards, or its civil aviation authority – a body equivalent to the FAA for aviation safety matters – was deficient in one or more areas, such as technical expertise, trained personnel, record-keeping, or inspection procedures.

The Category 1 status announced today is based on a March 2016 FAA assessment of the safety oversight provided by Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation. A Category 1 rating means the country’s civil aviation authority complies with ICAO standards. With the International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) Category 1 rating, Indonesian air carriers that are able to secure the requisite FAA and DOT authority, can establish service to the United States and carry the code of U.S. carriers.

So now the major roadblock standing in the way of Garuda Indonesia flying to the US has been lifted.

As Garuda Indonesia announced, they’re planning on initially launching the route via Tokyo Narita, though hope to eventually operate the flight nonstop.

LAX-Garuda-Indonesia

While I’m excited about Garuda Indonesia starting flights to the US, I can’t imagine they’ll be able to turn a profit on the route. They don’t have any pricing power since they don’t have any competitive advantage over any other airline operating one stop flights between Los Angeles and Jakarta.

Furthermore, Jakarta isn’t an especially high yield destination, and often has very cheap economy and premium cabin fares. Lastly, Indonesia is a long way from the US, and turning profits on ultra longhaul flights can be especially tough (since the pricing a market can sustain often isn’t proportional to distance).

The other question is what plane Garuda Indonesia will operate to the US. They only have a total of 10 777-300ERs, and only six of those feature first class.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0048.
Garuda Indonesia first class, per my friend @kellydaoud

So while it would be awesome if they launched the route with a three class 777-300ER, realistically it may very well be a two cabin 777-300ER, or otherwise an A330. Garuda Indonesia already flies to Tokyo Haneda using an A330, so perhaps they’ll shift that flight back to Tokyo Narita, and simply operate a continuing sector to Los Angeles?

Regardless, the major roadblock standing in the way of Garuda Indonesia flying to the US has now been lifted, so hopefully we learn more about Garuda’s route soon, assuming it does in fact materialize.

Do you think Garuda Indonesia will follow through with service to the US?

Comments

  1. I guess you are not right on this one. Tickets to Jakarta may be cheap, tickets out of Jakarta are vrey pricey on nearly all airlines.

  2. @ ron — Maybe we’re looking at different flights, but there are some fantastic premium fares available out of Jakarta.

  3. @ lucky

    I live in JKT and always end up paying through the nose. Plenty of examples where I buy a single flight out of JKT and a single flight back from elsewhere which can be cheaper. Letme know where you find good return fares out of Jakarta for premium cabins.

  4. I lived in Jakarta 3 years 2010-2013 I was SQ PPS full in J and F every flight I was on. Cathay to HK full in J all the time. Garuda J full 50% of the time and 100% to Bali. JAL to NRT J always full. I always found the fares high for J or F out of Jakarta. Dallas was always 7-9K RT.

  5. @ Tim

    Indeed my point. I am about 10 years Solitaire on SQ, but nearly impossible to use miles out of JKT. Flying to KL first and book a premium cabin from there is significantly cheaper.

  6. Agreed! I’m wondering where’s Ben found the ‘cheap’ fare for premium cabin out of Jakarta. Most of premium cabins were fully loaded out of CGK, almost all the time, based on my experience for last 8 years. I’ve traveled at least 10 times out of CGK in a month, and the premium cabin were always full in any airlines.

  7. I flew Garuda Business class last month, and the service standards blew me away. The food was amazing for business class. If they launch LAX to Tokyo this could be a great SkyMiles redemption.

    Lucky – I know you want to fly Garuda first, but you should consider business if the opportunity presents itself. Its much more attainable with miles or possibly a cheap fare!

  8. they are bleeding in LHR route, so it might be unwise for them to force LAX/other US destination.
    btw, unlike the cabin experience, GA FF program sucks.

  9. @Joylon

    Indeed, their Frequent Flyer is more than suck!, and it’s not worth at all, that’s why I keep flying GA using FlyingBlue

  10. @Jolyon I might have to disagree with you there. When I first flew their LHR-CGK route, about less than 3 months after the route’s opening, the load was very very light. However, when my friend decided to visit me in CGK and booked herself on that route, she told me that the load was north of 80%, and that was a weekday departure. So I guess the load itself continues to improve. Plus, I read somewhere that there are more people flying to the US from Indonesia than to the UK every year (400K vs 60K).

    I’m actually kind of hoping that their layover point would be Shanghai, as opposed to Narita. Save for the hajj season, Garuda utilises 2-class 393-seater 777s from Jakarta to Shanghai, plus, it’s also connected to Bali by A330s. They can then proceed from Shanghai to LAX/JFK whilst codesharing with China Eastern/Delta. This would present a very good opportunity for them. Except of course, PVG isn’t the best airport for a layover..

  11. Lucky, CGK-NRT is a premium route for Japanese and Indonesian business people, and SQ operates the only short-haul route with first class on CGK-SIN. I think this is a big opportunity for Garuda as it has the brand recognition in Japan, in addition to 400,000 passengers traveling from multiple points in Indonesia to the US.

  12. @Lawrence yes, that’s true. However for hajj season, as they need to pick up significantly more passengers to fly to JED, they have to pull out some of their 77Ws and temporarily replace them with A330s (2-class for CGK-PVG, and 3-class for DPS-NRT). This I believe is to help cut costs as an alternative to wet leasing planes from other carriers or lessors. By the end of October, they should already be operating the respective 777s to Shanghai and Narita (GA884 & GA880)

  13. I think they’ll try a U.S. route, but I also don’t think it will prove profitable. That far a distance, like Singapore et al, I’d opt to do a stopover in say Tokyo and then continue the next day.

  14. Hi Lucky, this isn’t related to this topic at all but I thought you may want to check it out – Singapore’s budget carrier is launching direct flights from Singapore to Athens, Greece from June 2017 onwards. What do you think of this?

  15. I flew Garuda regularly on the AMS LGW route and back in all three cabins…..before the route was cut.

    My first experience was in business class which at the time sold for 99 pounds one way (last minute bookings)…and was cheaper than their economy seats (150 pounds) whilst First class was selling for 325 pounds. As a comparison. KLM and BA charged anything from 180 pounds (advanced bookings) to 350 pounds last minute for economy and anything upwards of 800 pounds for European business (economy seats with a blocked middle seat and a small salad).

    With that in mind I always thought Garuda missed a trick. Their pricing between cabins should have been aligned but even more so, their fifth freedom flights should have been priced similiar to the market it was flying in. They offered a far superior product and service. but charged very low rates…

    The downside was that their website was difficult to navigate to buy tickets, they didn’t really advertise … and the boarding times were really long (it off course being a 77W).

    I suppose they would know the CGK to NRT market a lot better and wouldn’t make the same mistakes. Hopefully, they can make such a route profitable and maintain it long term.

  16. I find it highly unlikely that GA is going to use 20-year old 747s on CGK-US. They have more than enough 777s for this: PK-GIC/GID are both first class-toting 777s flying routes that the two-class ones should be flying, and those are flying temporary Hajj flights which in all likelihood will be moved to A330 or the said 747s once these US flights start.

    Also, one more thing: CGK is a very high yield destination IMO. Can’t ever seem to find a good fare out of here to the US except apparently on Saudia or China Southern, neither of which are high on my list of “to-fly” airlines. There’s a reason Singapore Airlines flies 3-class (F/C/Y) 777s 7x daily to Jakarta (plus 2x A350-900 2-class daily): there are plenty of the upper class who will pay through the nose for a more convenient flight and roughly equal product to Singapore Airlines, whose schedule to LAX ATM involves a 5.35am departure from CGK, a 3am arrival into SIN on the return with a 3.5h layover before the next flight, and double stops (although the situation will hugely improve with the introduction of second daily flights to LAX via ICN).

  17. Doubt that GA will use its 747-400. These are used on hajj flight and if they still wanted to use these birds, IMO it would have negative impact on passenger experience. My guess is they will find a way to employ their new 77W.

  18. Just throwing this out there, I’m in no way an industry analyst, but could Garuda fly to Honolulu? They could partner up with Delta, who fly there from four mainland U.S cities (ATL,LAX,SEA,SLC) as well as four more seasonally (SFO,MSP,PDX,JFK).

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