Introduction: Christmas Markets With A Touch Of Garuda
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Our flight from London to Jakarta was scheduled to depart at 8:15PM, though around noon GMT I got an email from Garuda Indonesia indicating that there had been a flight delay:
I have just emailing to let you know that tonight’s flight has had a small delay due to a technical problem, The flight is now due to depart LHR at 23:05 and you will arrive into CGK at 19:55+1.
Please note that check in will open at 17:15 and will close at 22:00.
Apologies on behalf of Garuda Indonesia.
I’m not quite sure I’d call a three hour delay “small,” though I did appreciate them proactively letting us know of the delay.
Upon doing some further research, it looked like the inbound flight had been delayed by about four hours:
Nonetheless we headed to Heathrow Airport pretty early, given that we still had some work to do, and had to check out of our hotel by 4PM.
So we showed up at Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport at around 6PM.
We looked at the check-in monitor to see where Garuda Indonesia check-in was located, and easily found it at the far right of the terminal.
There was no queue for first class passengers, though as we walked towards the counter we were approached by a guy in a suit “Mr… Beckett… Mr… Schlappig?”
The guy introduced himself as Luke, and said he’d be taking care of us until it was time for us to board. He walked with us up to the check-in desk, where an extremely friendly Garuda Indonesia associate quickly processed our check-in.
He gave us a sheet of paper explaining the delay, which indicated that economy passengers would receive a refreshment voucher.
We were presented with our boarding passes, as well as some sturdy first class ticket jackets, a fast track card for Jakarta, and an invitation to the lounge.
Luke was incredible, and whisked us through security and to the lounge. I felt a bit uncomfortable not taking my own bag (I’m not that much of a diva), but Luke insisted.
We were quickly through security, though got a bunch of looks from other passengers, as I don’t know of any other airline that provides this kind of service for premium passengers at Heathrow.
Garuda Indonesia uses the No1 Lounge at Terminal 3 for their premium passengers. While it’s disappointing that they use some random contract lounge, they really do make the best of it.
The No1 Lounge is located in the “F Lounge” section, which is also where the British Airways Lounge is located.
Just walk down the hallway and you’ll find an elevator on the right.
Once you take that to the second floor you’ll be right at the entrance to the No1 Lounge.
The lounge has a swanky exterior, with marble-looking signage.
As you can see based on the sign outside the lounge, quite a few airlines use this lounge for their premium passengers. This is also a Priority Pass lounge, so can be accessed by anyone who has a Priority Pass membership through their credit card.
Luke presented our boarding passes to the lounge attendant, and then escorted us to a special part of the lounge, which is reserved for select passengers. We were also presented with vouchers for free champagne.
First I’ll talk a bit about the main part of the lounge, though.
Near the entrance to the lounge is a long bar, with high-top seating, as well as a row of chairs across from it.
On the bar is some Moet champagne, along with a book about the lounge.
Past the bar area was the self serve buffet and dining area.
As you can see, there was cafe-style seating, as well as some communal tables.
The complimentary food selection was limited. There were muffins, croissants, pastries, brownies, and a few types of salad.
Then there were soft drinks as well as a coffee machine.
The lounge also has a menu with food available for purchase.
Past the dining area was a long rectangular room with a lot more seating.
For a contract lounge I tend to think this one is pretty stylish, and they do a good job mixing up the furniture so that it’s visually interesting.
There were communal tables, couches, leather chairs, “cocoons” hanging from the ceiling, etc.
Then there was a “cinema room” with a TV.
There was also a small business center, with wallpaper that made it look like a library.
Then there was a kids room.
Down the next hallway was the spa area.
In addition to spa treatments, the lounge also had showers.
In case anyone is interested in a spa treatment, here are the treatments they offer, and how much they cost:
Down the hall from the spa are the bathrooms. On the plus side, the bathrooms are all individual rooms. Unfortunately there are only three of them, which didn’t seem to be enough based on the constant queues for using them.
So the above is the main lounge, but not really the area we used. When we got to the lounge Luke escorted us to a special “reserved” part of the lounge. There were two reserved areas, and it seems like they were reserved for select premium passengers, including those in Garuda first class and Oman Air first class (I’m sure there were others as well, though I didn’t quite catch what airlines some of the passengers in the area were on).
To the left was a room with four chairs, as well as an area with a couch towards the back (which is where we hung out for our time in the lounge).
Then right across the hall was another room, which was a bit bigger. It had a couch, several chairs, a desk with a computer, etc.
Like I said, these rooms weren’t private, in the sense that they were also used by other premium passengers. Towards the beginning of our stay there we shared “our” room with two other people, while for the last couple of hours we had the room all to ourselves.
Each of the rooms has a fridge with soft drinks, though these reserved areas also come with service. There was a lounge attendant who checked on us every 10-15 minutes throughout our stay to see if we wanted anything, and he offered us complimentary drinks, food, etc. I had a hard time filling up my water glass, as he always insisted on refilling it.
Garuda first class passengers can order as much off the menu as they’d like:
We were hungry since we hadn’t eaten since breakfast (it had been a busy day), so I ordered a mushroom soup and a cheese plate. Both were good, though the roll served with the mushroom soup was borderline stale, so I didn’t eat it.
Ford ordered the chicken adobo & sticky rice and a cheese plate as well.
Pretty good food for a contract lounge, if you ask me!
Throughout our several hours in the lounge, Luke came back and checked on us several times to provide us updates on the flight’s departure, etc. My assumption was that Luke was responsible for escorting all first class passengers, but that’s not the case. Each “party” traveling in first class gets their own escort. In this case there were six passengers in first class (two parties of two, and two single passengers), so there were four escorts to take those passengers on the plane.
As an aviation geek there was something else playing out in my head at this point. Heathrow Airport has a curfew of 11:30PM, so it was my understanding that except under special circumstances, planes can’t take off after that time. It even happens that planes are fully boarded, only to get canceled because they missed the curfew by a few minutes.
So I was curious to see how our flight played out, given that we were coming up on that curfew.
Luke asked whether we wanted to be first or last to board. We said first onboard if possible. At 10:15PM we were a bit bored in the lounge and asked him if we could go to the gate already, as I was curious to see how things played out.
Our flight was departing from gate 1, located at the far end of the terminal. When we arrived at the gate at around 10:20PM it was just opening, and there must have been a queue of 200 people. Luke brought us to the very front of the line, which is incredible service, but also so awkward, as you get weird glares from the people you’re cutting.
Our entire crew was still sitting in the gate area, and our captain seemed to be on the phone with operations, or someone (I suspect the message was along the lines of “if you don’t get this flight out by 11:30 it’s going to cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars”).
I overheard one of the gate agents say that they have a deadline of 11:10PM to close the door, or else the flight would be in jeopardy.
Finally at 10:59PM boarding began, just over 30 minutes before the takeoff curfew — I was excited about whether we’d make it or not (I know, I get excited about the strangest things).
The second boarding started, Luke carried our bags onto the plane and we were warmly welcomed by the crew. Boy was I excited!
No1 Lounge Heathrow Terminal 3 bottom line
The Garuda Indonesia lounge situation at Heathrow is not ideal, and I’m sure the airline would agree, and would much rather have their own lounge. However, given that they only have a few flights per week, that seems impractical.
Well, they absolutely make the best of the situation. The reserved area of the No1 Lounge Heathrow is great for a contract lounge, and the fact that there’s service and unlimited food & drinks makes it even better.
The real highlight of the ground experience was Luke, though. Being escorted every step of the way at Heathrow Airport is something I’ve not had on any other airline. It’s my understanding that Garuda Indonesia contracts an outside VIP ground handling company to provide this service, and it shows their dedication to creating a seamless ground experience. Kudos to Garuda Indonesia for that.