Ouch: Garuda Indonesia Downgrades London Route

In December I had the chance to fly Garuda Indonesia first class from London to Jakarta to Singapore to London. The flights were incredible, and Garuda Indonesia has what’s easily one of my favorite first class products in the world. It was one of the all around most seamless first class experiences I’ve ever had.

The problem with Garuda Indonesia is that there’s no way to redeem partner miles for travel in their first class. However, we’ve seen some good opportunities to snag a Garuda Indonesia first class ticket at a discount lately:

garuda-indonesia-first-class-1

Garuda Indonesia’s two longhaul routes with first class are from Jakarta to London and Amsterdam, with some of the flights stopping in Singapore.

Unfortunately it looks like Garuda Indonesia has downgraded one of these routes. Garuda Indonesia’s flight between Jakarta and London won’t feature first class between June 1 and October 28, 2017.

While Garuda Indonesia has 10 Boeing 777-300ERs, only a few of them feature a first class cabin, while the others only feature business class and economy.

Why is this route being downgraded?

I’m working on figuring this out right now. I’m not sure if Garuda Indonesia needs maintenance on one of their 777s, and it’s causing this, though that seems like a long time to take a plane out of service for that.

Otherwise I suspect they’re planning on using it for another route, though I haven’t been able to figure out what that is yet.

Garuda Indonesia has been wanting to start flights between Jakarta and the U.S. in 2017. The FAA finally boosted Indonesia’s safety rating, so they can now start flights to the U.S. Perhaps the plane is being taken off the London route because they’re planning on launching flights to the U.S. with it. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

What are people being offered for the downgrade?

Rather disappointingly, people are reporting that Garuda Indonesia is encouraging them to refund their tickets. I guess they realize that many people booked the tickets specifically to try Garuda Indonesia first class. So of course you’re entitled to a refund if you want, though I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask to be accommodated on the Amsterdam flight instead.

Regulation 261 should also apply to this situation, I believe. However, while this regulation is clear in regards to compensation for most issues, downgrades are a bit of a grey area:

If a passenger is placed in a lower class than that for which a ticket was purchased, the airline must refund 30/50/75% of the cost of the ticket for type 1/2/3 flights. For the purpose of this condition, flights to the French overseas departments are not considered to be within the European Union. It is unclear whether the refund relates to the price of the entire ticket, or the segment on which the passenger was downgraded.

This would be a Type 3 flight, meaning in theory you’re entitled to a 75% refund. That would be a heck of a deal for a business class ticket. However, getting the airline to actually honor that may be a bit trickier.

garuda-indonesia-first-class-70

Bottom line

Garuda Indonesia is fantastic, so it’s disappointing to see them no longer offer first class to London. If you’re scheduled to fly the route between June and October, be sure to check your itinerary, as you’re likely downgraded. Now I’m just curious what they’re doing with the plane — hopefully they’re planning on using it for U.S. flights.

Have you been impacted by this Garuda Indonesia downgrade? How do you plan on handling it?

Comments

  1. NOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I was just about to book it this weekend for my birthday trip to CGK! I was really looking forward to trying out their seemingly marvellous First Class!

  2. The EU regulation 261 does not apply here; the section about downgrades is about downgrades at the gate. The situation here is more like an annulation of the ticket more than 2 weeks ahead of the scheduled departure with the offer of a full refund; so no compensation is due.

  3. Hm I just did a bit of internet research. No news confirming this yet, can you please share your source? Assuming it’s true, their spokesperson has stated they intend to start LA via Narita by June/July. So the timing actually makes sense..

  4. I’ll comment an update once I hear from Garuda on my London to Jakarta to SIN flight in June, 2017 once they email me… in the coming day.

    I did get an update stating that my flight departure time will be earlier by two hours rather then the time it was booked.

  5. Ben, curious as to why you have so much speculation in your various posts and no specific “news”. I would think with the popularity of your blog that you should have enough clout to get a call back from a spokesperson at an airline. Or am I making the mistake of confusing a blog with “real news”. That’s not a dig at you. Just trying to better I stand the thought process of you and other bloggers.

  6. I’m flying with them in June and I haven’t seen any changes yet on my reservation apart from the departure time out of Singapore (now 12pm instead of 11am)

  7. They are switching the 777 with F class to HND and NRT.. this is always happened on the summer time, i got downgraded to J class last June when i found out no F class and the AMS airport offered me EUR 1000 as an downgrade refund compensation.. but i declined it and processed it through my travel agency, ended up i got arround EUR 1900 refund for the downgrade.. HND and NRT should have the A330 diamond seat this summer.. but since u guys know, GA has been struggling to sell their 1st class on long haul route, thats why they always put F class on sale, so everyone can ‘preview’ their F class and share it on travel blog like Ben

  8. My absolute bet is that they want to use the plane for the inaugural US-Indonesia flight.

    They will want to announce the flight with full fanfare and have all 3 classes available to compete against the other Asian carriers. It would be a mistake for them to start without First Class service because it would make them look like a “lower class” airline from the start. By providing First Class, and with the great reputation that they have built for it, I am sure that they believe that well funded travelers will consider it as a serious option to fly to Asia.

    In case their First Class does not get enough demand, then they can downgrade to just Business Class and it won’t hurt them. They can then just send the plane back to the LHR-CGK route. If it really works for the US route then they can either buy/renovate an existing plane to provide First Class for the LHR-CGK route. This is why I believe why the LHR-CGK First Class is temporarily suspended.

    Many do not realize that there is a large number of Indonesians that travel to the US for business, pleasure, and school – this large group could easily sell out each flight in a best case scenario with all of the Indonesian travel to and from LA.

    We shall see how things unfold.

  9. I received an email this morning about my downgrade for my CGK-LHR in July. From A to J. I called the first class hotline this morning and was told she would reply back within 1 week. I thought at first that this is a glitch by the system as I am able to book the same exact flight through their website, but I guess it’s true, they are prioritizing the US route.

    I will definitely fight for this. Would ask them to honor the 75% refund or re route me through Amsterdam. Damn, I was so looking forward to this when I booked it last black friday.

  10. EU261 will ONLY apply to ex-LHR segments, as Garuda is a non-EU carrier. Will be interesting to see how they apply that in practice to people that have round-trip bookings.

  11. EU 261 doesn’t apply unless your flight is in the next 2 weeks. In the case of Garuda Indonesia it would only apply to departures from Europe

  12. I agree with @Jason. I’m Indonesian and hv just returned from LA, there is undoubtedly a high demand to the US from jkt. As even on my ANA flight, I even managed to spot a couple people from my jkt-NRT flight. Moreover, my seat mate was also from that flight. Furthermore, I remember Garuda wanting to inaugurate the route to LA in mid-2017. So I believe that there is atleast a 80% chance that the aircraft is being reused for the US route

  13. This route has a relatively low yield compared to their AMS route, so I don’t think they’ll use their bi-class 777s (they use these on middle eastern flights, high density configuration with a smaller business class cabin) temporarily for this route. I’m suspecting they’ll use their remaining longer range A330-200s, which were used on AMS via DXB and AUH before their 777s were delivered.

    They’ve also been cost-cutting lately. I’ve read a more recent first class flight review on CGK-SIN-LHR route, and the champagne has been downgraded. From the tasty Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Nicolas François Billecart 2002 and Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé, now it’s been donwgraded to Billecart Vintage 2006 and Billecart Brut Rosé (which is also their business class champagne). So maybe they’ve downgraded their business class wine list as well?

  14. Got the email for the downgrade for my LHR-CGK flight and no compensation. Called them and they said aircraft change. Asked to be rerouted to fly via Amsterdam and they said they will call back. Let’s see how they will handle this. As I am sure this will affect hundreds if not thousands of pax flying between London , Jakarta and Singapore in those few months.

  15. I have a booking on 10th June. I received a change in flying time earlier in Jan but the booking class still shows A in the website. When will they switch the aircraft actually?

  16. For everyone’s benefit and reference only, I set out my two cents:

    1. On how the 75% refund under EC Regulation 261/2004 should be calculated, the Court of Justice of the European Union’s recently held in Mennens v Emirates Direktion fur Deutschland (C-255/15) EU:C:2016:472; [2016] Bus LR 992:

    “(1) that article 10(2) of Parliament and Council Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, read with article 2(f) of the Regulation, meant that where a passenger was downgraded on a flight, it was only the price of that particular flight that was to be used as a basis for the reimbursement, and not the overall price of the transport to which that ticket entitled him, unless that price was not indicated on the ticket, in which case it had to based on the part of the price of the ticket corresponding to the quotient resulting from the distance of the flight in question and the total distance which the passenger was entitled to travel (… paras 29-30, 32, operative part, para 1).

    (2) That in determining the reimbursement owed to the passenger under article 10(2) of Regulation No 261/2004, the components of the price of the flight, such as taxes and charges, despite being connected to that flight, were not to be taken into account since they were not an intrinsic part of that flight and were unrelated to the inconvenience of being downgraded and to the performance of the flight concerned; and that, accordingly, the price of the ticket to be taken into consideration for the purposes of determining the reimbursement owed to the passenger after being downgraded, was solely the price of the flight itself, to the exclusion of taxes and charges indicated on that ticket, as long as neither the requirement to pay those taxes and charges nor their amount depended on the class for which that ticket had been purchased (… paras 39–43, operative part, para 2).”

    2. Article 10(2)(c) of the Regulation, which mandates the 75% refund, is reproduced below:

    “2. If an operating air carrier places a passenger in a class lower than that for which the ticket was purchased, it shall within seven days, by the means provided for in Article 7(3), reimburse

    (c) 75 % of the price of the ticket for all flights not falling under (a) or (b), including flights between the European territory of the Member States and the French overseas departments.”

    As can be seen, there is no express requirement that the downgrade has to occur within (or outwith) two weeks of the scheduled departure date / time of the flight. This is in contrast to Article 5(1)(c)(i), which deals with cancellation, as opposed to downgrading, which expressly stipulates that passengers affected by a cancellation would have no right to compensation under Article 7 if “they are informed of the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled time of departure”. Therefore, it is at least strongly arguable that the 75% refund for downgrading under Article 10(2)(c) is payable regardless of the flight’s scheduled departure date / time. More fundamentally, one may ask why whether the refund is payable would have to depend on the flight’s scheduled departure date / time – whenever it may be scheduled to depart, if one is downgraded, one will suffer as a result of the downgrade to the same extent, and it is unfair and unjust to deny the refund on the basis of the date / time. Such denial would arguably also be inconsistent with the Regulation’s overall objective, “apparent from recitals 1 to 4 in the Preamble, in particular from recital 2, that the Regulation seeks to ensure a high level of protection for air passengers”, as the European Court recognised in the now-famous Sturgeon v Condor Flugdienst GmbH (C-402/07) EU:C:2009:716; [2010] 2 All E.R. (Comm) 983.

  17. And I fully agree that the EC Regulation will only apply to the ex-London (or another EU airport) flights, as GA is not a EU carrier: Article 3(1)(b) of the Regulation.

  18. >The problem with Garuda Indonesia is that there’s no way to redeem partner miles for travel in their first class.

    You can redeem ANA miles for a return ticket of GA first;)

  19. 18th of June is my GA flight from London to CGK to SIN

    No contact from GA except the flight change departing two hours earlier.

    I’ve tried to book the same flight on GA’s website in F, same date and says unavailable. But the 3 days before and 3 days after there is a flight available in F.

    It’ll be the 777 so don’t believe they’ve taken the plane out of action…

  20. @MattJ: GA87 on 18 June shows no availabilty in First. It has a seat map for First, but all seats empty …??? Now, this looks to me a bit like a VVIP booking situation, perhaps a head of state … but this is pure guessing.

  21. Andy,

    GA87

    Shows available London to CGK in F

    But unavailable London to CGK to SIN which is my route in F…

    ¿

  22. /// GARUDA INDONESIA REINSTATES FIRST CLASS TO LONDON ///
    Garuda Indonesia has just today reinstated FIRST CLASS product on the CGK-SIN-LHR-CGK route
    thats a great news, looking forward to flying the renowned Best First Class

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