The flight from Jakarta to Tokyo would be the best opportunity to see how Garuda Indonesia stacked up to the 5-star rating it received from Skytrax. Only 11 airlines worldwide hold that rating. The 737-800 flight from Bangkok to Jakarta met my expectations for a short flight on a narrow body aircraft. Garuda’s business class lounge was a disappointment. How would business class on the red-eye flight to Tokyo measure up?
Indonesia and the Garuda
Indonesia is a very interesting country. It is the fourth most populous country in the world. It gained full independence from the Dutch in 1949. The country consists of more than 17,000 islands, 300 hundred ethnic groups, and 700 regional languages. Its gross domestic product measured in purchasing power parity is the seventh highest worldwide.
Indonesia is a constitutional republic with a president and legislature representing 34 provinces. Its national motto translates as “unity from diversity” figuratively or literally “many, yet one.” Indonesia’s motto has basically the same meaning as “e pluribus unum” found on U.S. notes and coins. In spite of mottos, Indonesia’s geographic, cultural, and religious differences seem ideal for a demagogue or religious leader to exploit for personal benefit.
Fortunately, it hasn’t happened there. Earlier in 2019, I had the pleasure of visiting Bali and the Lesser Sunda Islands including Komodo National Park. It would be great to spend more time exploring portions of those beautiful islands.
I’ve always been curious about the airline’s name. What does garuda mean, and why is it the name of the national airline of Indonesia? (Where is Dan Brown’s Prof. Robert Langdon when you need him?:)) I had to look it up.
I learned that a garuda is a bird-like creature common to Hindu, Buddhist, and Jian religions. Thanks to Indian influence that was very strong in Southeast Asia for more than 1,000 years, garuda (and no doubt other Hindu influences) seems to have a significant role in several Southeast Asian cultures. Garudas are included in the national emblems of India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and even Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country.
Garuda Indonesia’s logo is a garuda representation. A large garuda figure is mounted on the wall behind the check-in desk at the Terminal 3 Garuda Lounge.
Garuda Indonesia Flight GA 874 Jakarta, Indonesia (CGK) to Tokyo, Japan (HND)
Our departure gate, Gate 7, in CGK Terminal 3 Ultimate was a short walk from the lounge. Opened in August 2016, this is the newest terminal at CGK. Gates are large with plenty of room for seating and orderly boarding. LaGuardia Airport is undergoing a massive renovation, but currently New York City’s airports — and many other U.S. airports — are “third world” compared to this terminal.
Boarding began at 23:05 for a scheduled 23:40 departure. We were among the first to board through the Sky Priority lane.
Here is info about the A330-300 from Garuda’s website.
Garuda used two jet bridges for boarding. Business class used the forward door. Economy used the door immediately behind business class. That works best for everyone. Business passengers can stow their stuff, settle in, and enjoy pre-departure service without being disturbed by people going to seats in economy. Economy passengers don’t have to deal with flight attendants in the aisles or wait on business passengers standing up to arrange their gear.
Business Cabin and Seat
A flight attendant greeted us at the door and directed us to the seats. Business class looked fantastic. This plane was one of the new Garuda A330-300s with 24 Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seats in six rows in one business class cabin. Seats are arranged 1-2-1 in a reverse herringbone pattern.
The aft cabin holds 239 economy seats in standard 2-4-2 A330 fashion. This aircraft has a cabin crew of 15 flight attendants. That seems like a lot for 263 total passengers especially if there is no need for two shifts like on a 14-hour flight.
Super Diamond seats are one of the best no-door business class seats in the sky. Many airlines use them. Seats are about 21 inches wide.
The distance between seats is 60 inches. Seats recline to a full-flat position.
The ottoman is tiny but there is a decent amount of floor space.
I like Super Diamond seats because of the abundant secure storage that is lacking in many business seats. Usually panels on the console flip up to reveal two storage compartments. Garuda uses the rear area for storage, headphone and power connections while putting only the video remote in the location where the forward compartment usually is. There is another storage compartment in the aisle armrest which is raised after takeoff.
Amenities included an amenity kit, slippers, bottled water, pillow, blanket and noise-canceling headphones.
Before pushback, our flight attendant introduced herself, took meal orders and wake-up instructions, and offered beverages along with a warm damp cloth.
Two jet bridges and orderly boarding lines at the gate made boarding a lot more efficient. Everyone was on the plane and seated in less than 20 minutes. Pushback was at 23:31.
It was going great so far. Everything from the boarding process, greeting at the door, seat appearance and comfort, and pre-departure service was in line with my expectations for business class on a 5-star airline.
We departed CGK Runway 7R (Seven Right) at 23:50. The captain estimated seven hours and 30 minutes flying time to Tokyo some 3,585 miles distant as the great-circle crow flies.
Because this flight departed close to midnight, breakfast was the only meal service. That was disappointing. It would have been fun to see how Garuda and the crew handled their best meal service.
Upon reaching cruise altitude, flight attendants offered a beverage service and snacks.
This is the snack menu, which was available throughout the flight.
A flight attendant was kind enough to whip up a light meal that wasn’t on the menu to go along with a glass of wine and a movie.
The inflight entertainment system has a decent selection of first-run movies, world film, and classics as well as a wide variety of music and 10 video games.
Garuda A330s do not have live TV like the 777-300s, but they have free messaging for What’s APP, Line, WeChat, iMessage, and Instagram Message. WiFi is available for a fee.
After the snack and movie I dozed. One hour and 40 minutes from landing a flight attendant woke me for breakfast as requested before departure.
This was a good opportunity to pull out the amenity kit and go to the bathroom before the flight attendants put carts in the aisles. The amenity kit includes body lotion, lip balm, moisturizer, eyeshades, comb/brush, and dental kit.
There is one bathroom near the galleys at the front and back of business class. Bathrooms were neat and clean and stocked with additional amenities.
These are the menus for breakfast. They accommodate people with Indonesian, Western or Japanese tastes. You can order any combination.
This was the only meal service on the flight. Breakfast was simple but done well under the circumstances. This was a red-eye flight. At least half of the passengers opted to sleep rather than eat.
I asked for cereal, fruit, warm bread and an Indonesian dish I’d never had before, fried rice with duck, seafood and egg.
Breakfast was very satisfying and tasted good. The ware the food was served on was superb for business class. Five-star plus for business class would have been to eliminate the trays as with Qatar’s marvelous business class service that is more like first class than business class.
Picking the port side paid off as Mt. Fuji welcomed us to Tokyo.
The flight landed at Haneda Airport at 08:50 local time. We parked at Gate 142 at 08:53. It was a long walk to immigration.
This flight provided no reason to dispute the Skytrax 5-star rating. On the other hand, because the flight was a red-eye with only breakfast service, I can’t wholeheartedly endorse that rating either. The Super Diamond seat is a very good seat. Boarding was handled well. Amenities were more than sufficient. Flight attendants were professional and accommodated my request for a light meal after takeoff. The only thing I can complain about is not getting to sample Garuda’s best business class service on a lunch or dinner flight.
Have you flown Garuda Indonesia? How would you rate this airline?