Garuda Indonesia’s London Madness

Filed Under: Garuda Indonesia

Hopefully I don’t get a police summons for this post.

Garuda Indonesia’s horrible handling of a vlogger sharing his experience on a flight isn’t the only thing that’s totally whacky at Indonesia’s national airline.

Garuda Indonesia is a mess

This is nothing new, but up front it’s probably worth noting that Garuda Indonesia’s management is a mess. This seems to be the challenge with so many airlines that are government owned, where no one seems to know whether they’re supposed to be operating as a for-profit company, or operating in a way that maximizes prestige.

It takes time to build up a route

When an airline enters a market it takes time to build up demand. Routes aren’t typically going to be profitable from day one, and in particular it’s important for an airline to be consistent and reliable.

If an airline gets a reputation for not offering consistent service, that can harm their presence in a market. After all, passengers value reliability above all else.

That brings us to Garuda Indonesia’s London route.

Garuda Indonesia’s London madness

Garuda Indonesia has been flying to London most recently since 2014… sort of. I don’t think I’ve ever in my life see an airline be so inconsistent and indecisive in the service they’re offering.

What am I talking about?

  • In 2014 Garuda Indonesia relaunched flights to London Gatwick, following the route being suspended for many years; they operated this route via Amsterdam, as a fifth freedom flight
  • In 2015 Garuda Indonesia switched this flight from London Gatwick to London Heathrow, after securing a slot there
  • The flight then operated via Singapore, until 2017, when the flight started being operated nonstop in the eastbound direction
  • In October 2018 the airline suspended the London route altogether
  • Then the airline announced that they’d relaunch nonstop flights between Jakarta and London as of November 2018, using a 777
  • Then the airline announced that they’d actually operate the route via Singapore in both directions, using an A330
  • Then in January 2019 the airline began operating a triangle route, from Jakarta to London to Bali to Jakarta
  • Then in May 2019 the airline announced they’d cut service to London altogether
  • In June 2019 they stopped accepting reservations on the London route, only to reopen reservations days later
  • Effective immediately the airline will operate the route from Bali to Medan to London, with that stop in both directions

In other words:

  • If someone wants to travel between London and Jakarta they’d have to make two stops, meaning the travel time on Garuda Indonesia is significantly longer than on other airlines
  • Even if you’re traveling between Bali and London, Garuda Indonesia’s “direct” flight only offers the sixth fastest travel time

On the plus side, they do have a monopoly on the Medan to London route, so… yay?

Bottom line

I don’t have the slightest clue what Garuda Indonesia is thinking here. For one, changing up your route every few days/weeks/months gives consumers zero confidence in what they’re booking.

If I had to fly between London and Indonesia I wouldn’t book Garuda Indonesia because I couldn’t trust they’d actually operate the route they say they do. They have about as much consistency on this route as WOW Air had with their operations in their last few weeks of existence.

But beyond that, their logic here is just so bad:

  • To make ultra long haul flying work on a network airline, you need premium traffic
  • Presumably there is some demand between London and Jakarta for premium traffic, but at this point no one will fly Garuda Indonesia because that would require two stops, or one stop on separate flights with poorly timed connections
  • So instead they’re operating a leisure route, between London and Bali, but they’re not even doing that best, since other airlines offer shorter travel times

If London to Jakarta and London to Bali don’t work nonstop, then I think that’s the point at which it’s just time to cut a route, no?

  1. Saw this yesterday and was confused. KNO-LHR? Didn’t think of this as a high-demand route. But only time will tell…

  2. If people are travelling from Jakarta to London, they can choose to take Jakarta-Medan-London. I think that’s part of their logic.

  3. Alright, time to give it some background. The 2019 hajj season is ongoing, and the current management decided to redirect the 393-seater 777 they typically use for the London route to cater for Indonesia-Saudi Arabia flights all the way until the hajj season is complete.. in September.

    Also, no there will not be 2 stops. Medan (KNO) will act as a temporary hub for London-Indonesia. GA86 flies DPS-KNO-LHR, GA87 flies LHR-KNO-DPS. Passengers connecting to/from CGK need only connect once in KNO.

    Other than that yes I completely agree the lack of consistency has really put me off (among other things). As I mentioned in a previous comment, I’ll be taking my business elsewhere. Sad for the crew whom I find both warm and professional.

  4. They are probably babysitting LHR slots for other airlines and are bound by the slot times of those which is why they would need to shuffle the city on either end. They also have plenty of data points to show that Jakarta probably is too saturated with 1-stop itineraries that the little premium demand that exists there will not all flock to their flight.

  5. Someone important in the Indonesian government needs to travel from Medan to London soon, perhaps?

    Flying direct LHR-DPS or LHR-CGK one way Garuda at least had a fighting chance, the idea anyone is going to opt to change in KNO rather than take one of the many well-timed connections from London to DPS on EK or QR is comical, though. There is zero point operating the tag flight KNO-DPS. I can’t imagine there is enough demand to anywhere near fill an LHR-KNO flight here either unless there’s something obvious I’m missing. It almost seems like someone is trying to lose money on this route on purpose.

  6. The example you posted shows this flight is almost half the price of the nearest competitor. I don’t have any reason to book this particular flight, but in general when I fly I would certainly consider saving that much money at the cost of a few hours. (This is coming from someone who usually pays for flights in cash not miles)
    If the flights are consistently priced that much lower, maybe THAT is their logic?

  7. This makes no sense at all. There won’t be even 10 people per flight who would benefit from KNO-LHR. KNO is a logical starting point for Hajj traffic from Sumatera and for Air Asia and Lion flights, but not for LHR traffic.
    Unfortunately, GA management is skillfully driving GA into the same dark pit where MH has been stuck for years.
    A shame as they were improving until a few years back.

    The recent action of cooking the books was also an embarrassing act of stupidity.

  8. I agree with you Garuda’s inconsistency with London has been a mess. I think sticking to LGW-AMS-CGK would have been fine in the long run given how there’s enough premium demand for AMS-CGK and for those going further to London, LGW airport would have been fine.

  9. Flight times are now pretty terrible for Bali passengers in both directions – in at nearly 11pm, out at 8am. Arriving so late in London isn’t ideal either.

    Nearly all the other one stop options offer more reasonable/flexible timings than this

    From what I’ve read they can’t uplift any Medan-Denpasar passengers either – any passengers they drop off/pick up there (local or connections from Jakarta etc) those seats will then be empty to Denpasar

  10. Ok but why is it so cheap? I assume that screenshot was for Business Class, since Emirates shows something like $6K, but then why is Garuda’s flight only $500? I’d happily stop in KNO if it means flying Business for the price of Economy…!

  11. A London-Singapore-Bali flight would make most sense if they need to stop – at least then they can access the plentiful demand for cheap J seats ex SIN, the local traffic SIN-DPS, easy transit stop for through passengers as well as plenty of connections to Jakarta and elsewhere. But I am not sure the 330-200 can make it though?

  12. My partner, infant son and I are booked one-way LHR-DPS at the very end of Sept in business class. We have an over night stop in Bali before heading on to Perth( Separate ticket).

    I have just called Garuda customer services to see where I stand with cancelling my ticket. Customer service agent informed me there would be £100 fee to cancel my ticket. The main reason I booked with them was because of the direct service to Bali which they are no longer offering (they haven’t even notified me of this yet).

    Surely this can’t be the case? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  13. Some people pay for flights. So people don’t have infinite money to spend on flights. If the example on this post is consistent throughout the calendar, then yes. A lot of people will take this flight for such savings, even if it’s less ideal.

  14. Garuda has always been a mess. I have been to Indonesia dozens of times and it is a mess. However, US bloggers decided that it was an “amazing airline” just because there was an opportunity to fly their first class with miles. Now you are coming back to reality.

  15. I know I’m in the minority’s but I’ve actually been planning a trip to Indonesia to include the Lake Toba area so the kno direct flight would be a strong contender based on price and convenience. However, with all the changes I doubt this route will stay.

  16. I do agree with the inconsistency. GA can’t even be consistent with domestic routes. They opened few new routes and in less than a year they discontinued without public notices. London route is the worst of all. I do understand that they need to make changes right now because of aircraft deployment, but anything other than that is just miserable. GA have lots of domestic routes yet they connected London conveniently only to Bali ONE WAY. I’m into aviation world but I’m just too tired with all the current news, especially when GA don’t even do anything to steal the thunder.

  17. as a guy that lives in Medan, I agree with what Ray said above.

    It saddens me to see Garuda like this, with all the inconsistency, but I can see why they do this (I don’t agree, but at least I can see why, lol).

  18. I am told by a reliable source that for the first DPS-KNO-LHR flight, there were at least 16 pax ex-KNO and more than 50 pax ex-DPS. Rather dismal, I know. However, on the return legs, there were 21 pax disembarking at KNO and ‘many more, possibly in the hundreds’ continuing their journey towards DPS.

  19. @JT: I am told that a review of the route’s performance will only be done on 26OCT, so I don’t think you should be worried.

  20. Also, there hasn’t been any attempt at promotion from GA so far, so one can expect better load factors (and hopefully, yields) as marketing campaigns for the route are being rolled out.

  21. @Ray: I’m not buying the ‘777s being used for Hajj’ excuse. Per routesonline/airlineroute, from 18JUL to 06AUG the flight will be opr by a Boeing 777-300ER and will revert back to A330-200 on 08AUG onwards (save for selected dates where the 777 may be deployed instead). A route review will be conducted on 26OCT19, where the relevant depts. will decide whether or not to canx the route.

  22. Im on the Turkish Inaugural 787 flight to Denpasar rn and then im flying with GI from Bali-Jakarta on one of their A330s, I kinda want to take photos of the plane just to see what they’ll do XD. But yeah this post shows their logic over the last few days is trash.

  23. Although I disagree with the fact someone has to make 2 stops. GA flies 8x daily from CGK to KNO, and someone could feasibly do this routing:

    GA184 dep Jakarta 9am arr Medan 1125am
    GA86 dep Medan 1240pm arr London 8pm

    GA87 dep London 945pm arr Medan 425pm+1
    GA193 dep Medan 635pm arr Jakarta 9pm

  24. CEO Needs to be fired. I’m flying Garuda tomorrow London Bali and was so excited to be on the first ever non stop now I learn via Medan!
    In October 2018 I was booked In first class bali london and route cancelled.
    My loyalty goes so far. NEVER again to Europe with Garuda

  25. We used to fly first class (paid not with miles or points) Garuda, LHR to Denpasar direct, return Singapore to LHR , then changed from Jakarta to LHR direct the following year, then changed all together to the route we dont need this year. We stop flying Garuda, we flew BA this year. Garuda’ crews are marvellous but Garuda management i think are unprofessional and in a mess

  26. Swanny, wait for the notification. I expect you should be able to cancel then without charge.

    At this stage they’d need to process like a normal cancellation without their cause, hence the fee.

  27. Since the beginning of time, London is always a mess for Garuda.

    I think Garuda should ditch London immediately and switch to Paris or Rome because they can use their Skyteam connection there just like Garuda do in Amsterdam all this time

  28. I had a flight booked from London to Jakarta a week ago, turned up at the airport, couldn’t check-in.. Turned out they had changed my flight without telling me ( for the LHR to KNO to CGK route )
    Was told to recheck my bags at KNO
    Arriving at KNO, they said I wouldn’t be able too and they would go to Bali (i wasn’t going to Bali)
    Then another member of staff came along and said I had to recheck my bags…
    The 2 members of staff spoke for 5 minutes to each other, then on radio to other members of staff in the baggage hall, I’d been pushed through customs and Xray at this point and could see my bags through the glass from the Xray machine like a weird Zoo. Bags were taken off, radios were shouted down, bags were put back on the belt, taken back off… put back on…
    At this point, the flight was meant to be boarding. Then all the staff just disappeared and I wasn’t allowed back into the baggage hall.
    Managed to just make the flight no thanks to anyone of the ground staff.
    To top it all off my special meals were not accounted for when they changed the flights without telling me.

  29. I remember end 20th century Garuda flying to Yogyakarta via Medan into Bali then Yogya..if I am remembering correctly via a tiny old Abu Dhabi airport when Medan wasn’t on the menu
    All this was before ME3 took over..
    It probably was cheaper than KLM..I have flown years with Garuda until the Munir case..
    I also remember it was not easy then to get a Garuda FF membership as a foreigner

  30. They can’t quite fill their 77Ws to LHR because Indonesian needs to apply for a visa to visit UK; plus there is relatively few business travelers between Jakarta and London (compared to Singapore/KL/HK & London). No wonder GA downsizes to A332.

    I imagine KNO – LHR leg and vice versa will be popular with British tourists heading to/from Bali (leisure travelers prioritize price above everything else, right?). And domestic demand should fill up all empty seats on KNO – DPS leg.

  31. I note the flights from LHR to DPR (Bali) and return, the aircraft has now been changed from a 777 to A330 200. The 777 business class has a 1-2-1 configuration with flat beds; the A330 200 has a configuration of 2-2-2 with reclining seats. Surly anybody who has booked a business seat prior to the change of aircraft will very unhappy like I am. Is there any redress? All thoughts most welcome.

  32. We are also going J class to DPS in October. Not sure that the 330-200 is just recline actually. Have got different stories from travel forums – some sites I rely on say that it is now full flat and seatguru is useless so don’t believe it. (it is the A330-300 which is only angle flat in some versions) Strangely although it is indeed 2-2-2 vs 1-2-1 the seat width is greater on the 330 vs 777. Whilst I agree that the constant switching is commercial hari-kari, I for one am pleased that the return GA87 flight now leaves DPS 70 minutes later than the original connection via CGK and it is the same aircraft albeit with a fuel stop in KNO. Last bit of puzzle however is that GA87 leaves from DPS domestic terminal so looks like a full disembark at KNO to clear customs and immigration, whereas inbound arrives at DPS international. At least the domestic lounge at dPS is slightly better than the International terminal – though that is not saying much 🙂 Still, looking forward to nice empty cabins anyway – we are only 2 of 4 booked on Oct 1 and only 2 full stop on Oct 22.

  33. GA’s route to LHR already messed up since the beginning. I wonder if they do their original plans, maybe won’t be ended up like this.

    Originally they planned to try compete in Kangaroo route, SYD-CGK-LHR planned to be opened sometime in 2013/2014. If realized, might become one of the fastest way to reach London from Sydney. Unfortunately, it later turns out that CGK’s runway can’t handle a fully-laden B777-300ER so they decided to fly it via AMS… and continues like written on this article.

    Currently GA schedule to LHR is not conveniently connected with flights from SYD, need a really long connecting time. Also considering that Indonesia doesn’t have much historical connection with UK (in opposite with Netherlands which has historical connection and both GA and KLM has route to AMS, also KLM is currently the only European airlines flying to Indonesia), in my opinion catching passengers only from Indonesian market is not so good.

  34. I’ve just stumbled across the fact my 2 x business class bookings (out on 3 Sept, back on 19 pet) between London and Heathrow are now on a A330-200 and there’s an about-bound stop (I went online to confirm my seat bookings to see they’d all gone and the cabin layout had changed). As yet, I have not had any communication about this from GA. Shocking.

    The fact my original booking, on GA’s new Business Class product, and on a direct flight, was the reason I booked with them. Now wish I’d gone with some body else.

    I booked via Expedia and they tell me I can’t change or cancel the ticket. I am pretty worried they’ll make yet another change before we fly. I’ll never book with them again – too much upheaval and stress before outer honeymoon!

  35. I flew this route on the 18th, having been told about the changes the day before. I arrived at the domestic terminal (as I was told by phone), only to have to be driven over to the international terminal where the flight left from. There were about 30 passengers from DPS-KNO, which arrived over an hour early (I think they forgot about the time zones, because even the cabin crew thought we were only on the ground for 1 hour, not 2) – they have since changed this flight to leave an hour later. We were not allowed to disembark at KNO, even the crew operating the first flight didn’t know that this would be the case. About 30 passengers joined, I don’t think there were more than 4 business class passengers. Even with everyone occupying their own row of 3 seats in economy, there was still loads of space, but at least the flight was comfortable.

  36. We booked flights in December last year to travel direct from Jakarta to London this August – two adults and two infants. Less that a month after book Garuda changed the return schedule to travel from London to Medan to Bali to Jakarta… But this gets better… Less that four weeks before travel they changed the outward trip to fly from Jakarta to Medan to London – Garuda offered a full refund but it was too expensive to fly via other airlines at short notice and we couldn’t change our dates. After flying from Jakarta to Medan, we boarded our flight from Medan to London which was 95% full with passengers flying from Bali to London. Garuda couldn’t honor our original seat booking and the plane was delayed by 90mins whilst they sorted out the problem. We precooked two baby baskets but they were only able to honor one! Never ever flying long haul with Garuda again. With the change of schedule our London to Jakarta trip has increased from 16 hours to approximately 21 hours

  37. This morning I received an email from Garuda noting flight changes. My London to Bali flight which had previously been changed to London Medan Bali,(without notification I add) has now been changed to Amsterdam Jakarta Bali with no mention of how we get to Amsterdam. This situation is mad, my girlfriend and I are travelling with our 20 month old son and initially booked the direct flight with Garuda for practicality.

  38. Problem with GA is that they are sandwiched between AirAsiaX and SQ. They can’t offer the luxury Of 350 that SQ offers and they also can’t compete with the efficiencies of AK. What is stopping AirAsia X flying DPS LHR? Since they will do KUL LHR anyway with the a330 neo? That would just flatten out all the competition to bali anyway

  39. Dan, what date is your LHR-DPS cancellation? Oct 22 by any chance ? We were on the incoming flight from DPS that day and have just been shunted back 2 days without warning to Oct 24 as they have cancelled the 22nd flight for “operational reasons”. i.e. nobody else on the flight as at 20th August ! We will reroute ourselves back via Jakarta and Amsterdam as we have done this before. Garuda will fix your flight to Amsterdam through KLM in the fullness of time but it will be a very early morning flight – on the other hand if you have a closer regional airport you might avoid a trip to LHR if you let them know your preference for say Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol etc.

  40. Hi CJ

    My flight date is 28th Sept. On the plus side currently the new flight is on 777 so the seat will be better but all the connections etc are now out of sync as we make our way down to perth.


  41. Just for fun, GA have announced they are changing the plane type on LHR again(!), it will be the A330-900neo from end of October onwards so business class is back to reverse herringbone again which is a positive at least.

    Let’s see if we manage to get to the end of October before GA make another change to the schedule.

  42. Does anyone know if GA86/87 has been cancelled again?
    I’m due to travel mid November but when i look on skyscanner i can no longer search for the flight…

  43. I’m flying LHR to DPS in Feb 20. The aircraft has been change yet again. Originally it was Boeing 777, then Airbus A300-200, then a new A330-900neo, now back to A300-200. Garuda changes the aircraft regularly, without informing passengers , each time I have to change our seats as each aircraft has a different seating plan. It’s a pain. I haven’t heard the flight has been cancelled. The London office is helpful, the staff are embarrassed with the number of changes but not their fault.

  44. This discussion is highly relevant to me as I am looking to book a business return flight Lon / Bali for February. Garuda price is good but I want some confidence on the plane used.

    Any recent experiences would be appreciated.


  45. I’m flying business class Garuda GA87 London to Denpasar-Bali in February 2020, I booked several months ago, since booking there has been numerous changes of aircraft, from A330-200, 777, back to A330-200 then new A330-900neo, as at 22 November its back to A330-200. Unfortunately the A330-200 seat configuration in business class in 2-2-2, where as the other aircraft are 1-2-1 configuration which are much better. However the amount of times Garuda have changed the aircraft who knows, its a case of wait and see what’s next.

  46. Might be related. Garuda President was just fired after found guilty for smuggling a Harley Davidson motorcycle & other few bikes from London to Medan (KNO) for personal property. The smuggling was initiated last year. Unconfirmed but few people believe that KNO custom is less strict than CGK custom, making it easier for smuggling. This might be one of reason why they changed the route, for a fucking personal business!

    As an Indonesian, I am very ashamed of this!

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