Despite announcing a luxurious new first-class product, Garuda Indonesia maintains the highest standards in its Executive Class cabin, finds Nick Walton on a recent flight from Jakarta.
Garuda Indonesia, once the fear of travel agents and insurance companies, has reinvented itself over the past few years, and the product on its fleet of modern A330 aircraft is indicative of an internationally award-winning airline with something to prove. The introduction next year of a luxurious new first-class – a requirement for consideration as a Skytrax five-star airline – is further testament to Garuda’s ambitions.
The airline is a little behind the times and still doesn’t have an online check-in so I checked in for my flight from Padang on Sumatra to Hong Kong via Jakarta at Padang’s tiny but neat little airport, where Garuda’s staff were welcoming and cheerful despite the very early hour. A dedicated lane for Executive Class passengers was available but not necessary and boarding passes for both flights were presented quickly and efficiently.
Garuda presently operates 10 Airbus A320-200 aircraft, each of which caters to 36 passengers in the airline’s most modern executive class in a 2-2-2 configuration. The airbus operates between Jakarta and Hong Kong on selected departures and alternates with one of the new Boeing 737-800 Next-Generation aircraft. The aircraft was boarded quickly and efficiently with a separate gateway for Executive Class passengers.
The flight departed on time (the first to do so out of four flights in a week) and I quickly settled into the modern lie-flat Executive Class seat, which boasts a 74-inch pitch, plenty of legroom, in-seat power, a personal reading lamp, and a large personal screen. Hot towels, glasses of chilled champagne, and simple amenity kits featuring socks, eyeshades, toothbrush/toothpaste, a comb, and surprisingly upmarket L’Occitane lip balm (which isn’t at all bad for a five-hour day flight ) were handed out by the crew. Throughout the flight staff were smiling, welcoming, and genuinely eager to please, proving that for airlines looking to change their image, technology can only go so far, and people power will prove an even stronger drawcard.
Garuda Indonesia serves a simple yet elegant meal on its afternoon flight to Hong Kong. My meal included a duck salad with potato salad, followed by an option of baked chicken with apricot sauce; mini tumpeng Garuda, a rendition of the traditional Indonesian rice dish; and five-spice beef. A simple choice of wines and local beers accompanies Executive Class meals and the chicken was perfectly cooked, well proportioned, and elegantly served.
Garuda’s in-seat magazine Colours has been revitalized by magazine group Agency Fish into a comprehensive and up-to-date read and, coupled with a movies on-demand system that rivals some of the best in the region (and represents a significant investment on the airline’s part), passengers are well entertained on long haul flights.
Despite an impressive yet demanding domestic network, Garuda Indonesia continues to improve in leaps and bounds and offers an elegant and professional option to Indonesia and beyond.
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