Garuda Indonesia is the flag carrier of the most populous nation in South East Asia and is named after the holy bird Garuda – which is also Indonesia’s national emblem. We flew Garuda Indonesia in business class on one of its six weekly services between the South Korean capital and Denpasar-Bali, GA871. This service complements the airline’s six weekly frequencies between Seoul and Jakarta, GA879.
Garuda Indonesia have made considerable improvements in recent years. The airline completed its ‘Quantum Leap’ investment program in late 2014, which has seen a complete refresh for the airline including the introduction of new aircraft.
2009 saw the ban on the airline flying to the European Union lifted, which was quickly followed by the introduction of routes to Amsterdam and London.
In March 2014, Garuda Indonesia became the 20th member of the SkyTeam Alliance.
Business class aboard Garuda Indonesia’s Airbus A330 fleet is laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration.
If the seat looks familiar that’s because it is. Turkish Airlines use this seat, as do Qatar Airways on their Boeing 777 aircraft.
On the Garuda Indonesia A330-300, there is a total of 42 seats split into two cabins, the former consisting of 5 rows and a smaller two-row mini-cabin located just behind.
We were surprised to be the only passenger booked in business class on this flight when we arrived at the airport to check-in. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that there wasn’t a queue for the single Sky Priority / business class check-in counter).
Some aggressive up-selling at check-in resulted in a few more passengers ultimately joining us, along with one passenger on staff travel. There was sign up at check-in offering one-way upgrades on departure to Denpasar-Bali for local currency equivalents of AU$180 – AU$600 AUD one-way (or AU$240 – AU$960 for the return journey).
While it is nice as a passenger to have such an empty cabin, we do wonder about the economic viability of flights with so few passengers.
Boarding was punctual and efficient, with a seperate Sky Priority lane for business class passengers and SkyTeam elite members.
The flight attendants were very warm and friendly, welcoming us by name and directing us to our seat, 7K. We were immediately offered a glass of Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé NV which is actually quite a nice drop and also served onboard Qatar Airways.
Boarding proceeded efficiently with economy passengers boarding through door 2L, so they did not pass through the front business cabin.
Garuda’s in flight entertainment system is on demand and had a reasonable array of Western and Indonesian movies and TV shows to pick from. Whilst not as varied as some other airlines there was certainly enough content to keep us entertained – it certainly blew Air China out of the water.
The world’s most expensive In-Flight Wi-Fi was also available
Not every passenger has direct aisle access. That said, the Garuda seats have enough surrounding space to ensure that you don’t feel cramped or too close to your seat neighbour.
The menu for this flight was already sitting in the seatback pocket when we boarded and a L’Occitane branded amenity pack was sitting on the armrest.
Unfortunately after the initial greeting the service took a sharp decline. The flight was delayed 90 minutes leaving Seoul and there was very little communication from the crew to the passengers. No drinks were offered to business class passengers and with entertainment system not switched on until we were in the air. This all made the delay feel even longer.
Suffice to say this was one of the most poorly communicated on-board delays that we’ve come across in some time.
The menu for our flight was as follows. Eagle-eyed readers will notice the room for improvement in the descriptions of the wines.
Eventually after finally taking off from Seoul our meal and drink orders were taken. We decided to have the Indonesian option. Curiously for a flight from Korea, the other option was a Japanese menu.
We started with Indonesian vegetable salad with grilled prawns, peanut and dried shrimp sauce.
This meal would probably have been better had it just been a peanut sauce rather than having the addition of shrimp into the mix. For a salad it was pretty standard but we felt the sauce really let the starter down.
The crew plated everything individually at seat and laid the table utensil by utensil. We particularly liked the glass plate, although it took up a considerable amount of space for a bread plate.
The next course was traditional clear chicken soup with shredded chicken. This was excellent. There was ample chicken and the soup itself was full of flavour.
This was followed by pan fried snapper in spicy Balinese sauce with traditional yellow rice and sauteed vegetables. The snapper was a little dry but the spicy Balinese sauce made up for that.
For dessert, coconut sago pudding with lychee mango ice-cream was offered. This was exceptional, with the ice cream by far being the highlight of the dessert.
We can’t comment highly enough about the presentation of the dishes, they were certainly some of the most aesthetically pleasing meals we’ve seen on a plane.
The crew then cleared away the plates and that was just about the last we saw of them during the flight. The crew shut the blinds across the entire cabin. We settled in for some rest.
The A330-300 seats are comfortable and recline into an angle flat position. Set at only 60″ pitch, you might struggle to get over the passenger next to you if they are sleeping. Obviously not a problem on today’s flight.
The airline also operates A330-200 aircraft which are configured with 36 seats in business class, with a greater pitch (74″) that go fully flat. Unfortunately that aircraft type doesn’t operate this route.
We managed around four hours solid sleep before our approach into Denpasar-Bali.
Its worth noting that the staff travel passenger at the end of our row had their seat reclined for our entire time on the ground and during taxi and take-off, with no apparent care given by the crew.
The airline says it is “presenting a new level of service excellence in air travel”. It doesn’t specific whether this a higher level. That said, it was a very pleasant journey, the food was nice and we enjoyed having the cabin largely to ourselves.
Garuda Indonesia has certainly stepped up its game in recent years. All in all, we found this business class flight to be fantastic value for money. The fare gap in business class between Garuda and other, more established international airlines on a number of routes is significant. For that alone, we will actively consider Garuda in the future.