Hello from Jeddah! I’m in the middle of my wild review trip, and I’ll admit, the exhaustion is really starting to hit. I’m not in my 20s anymore, and I may have overdone it. But at this point, the show must go on…
I was looking forward to my 10-hour Garuda Indonesia business class flight from Jakarta to Jeddah for a couple of reasons. First of all, I flew Garuda Indonesia first class several years ago, and had an amazing experience, so was looking forward to seeing how business class compares. Second of all, I was flying to Jeddah, so I knew that would be a unique experience.
Some OMAAT readers have been mentioning that Garuda Indonesia isn’t what it once was, and unfortunately my experience matches that. This flight had some highlights, but also had some major shortcomings. While I’ll have a full review soon, I wanted to share some initial thoughts in this post.
In this post:
Garuda Indonesia’s Jakarta Lounge is bad
I remember when I flew Garuda Indonesia many years back, all the staff were talking about how excited they were that the new terminal would soon open, and that it would represent a huge improvement for the passenger experience. So I had high hopes, and figured that since this is Garuda Indonesia’s hub, the airline would have a great lounge.
I mean, after all, Garuda Indonesia is a Skytrax 5-star airline, and we know what a massive and legitimate honor that is, reserved for airlines like Lufthansa, based on the Allegris product.
I think the ceiling as you walk toward the lounge really sets the tone for what you can expect…
As does the closed off first class lounge, which the airline has abandoned…
As does the odd kids play area plus random seating outside the entrance to the lounge…
This has to be one of the least impressive airline hub lounges I’ve seen anywhere.
The lounge has several rooms that are simply locked, and one side of the lounge just ends with a few oddly placed… whatever these things are?
The Plaza Premium Lounge in the terminal is exponentially better than the Garuda Indonesia Lounge.
Jeddah flights are a special breed…
Before I share my thoughts on the actual flight, let me acknowledge that I was flying to Jeddah. Many flights to Jeddah primarily consist of religious pilgrims taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I was expecting that 90% of passengers on this flight would be religious visitors, but I was wrong… that estimate was way too low.
So it’s just worth acknowledging that this isn’t your typical business route. There’s not only a prayer before takeoff, but also a prayer upon landing. And for a vast majority of people, this is a very special and meaningful journey.
I didn’t really witness a lot of the action, since business class was almost completely empty. But sometimes a lot goes on with these flights…
Garuda Indonesia’s business class seats are fine
Garuda Indonesia’s Boeing 777-300ERs have fully flat staggered business class seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration. Specifically, the airline has the Stelia Solstys III product, which isn’t exactly cutting edge at this point. The cabin has seen better days, and the finishes don’t exactly make the cabin feel much more modern.
Fortunately the true window seats in this configuration are pretty comfy, whether you’re trying to just relax or sleep.
Garuda Indonesia’s food & service are good
Garuda Indonesia has consistently won awards for its great cabin crew, and that has always matched my experience. Garuda Indonesia cabin crew are just so incredibly warm and exude hospitality, and the crew on this flight was no exception.
Now, they maybe weren’t as polished as on Singapore Airlines. For example, with the main meal, they just placed my dessert on my tray next to my main course a minute after serving it, “for my convenience.” Am I being brought the check at a restaurant in the United States, or being served a meal on a long haul flight?
But that’s incredibly minor, as they really were lovely, and consistently checked on everyone in business class (like, all few of us).
The food onboard was quite good as well, and there was even a quasi onboard chef. Or at least he wore a different kind of outfit, and generally interacted with me when it came to taking meal orders. The meal started with a salmon canapé, which I paired with a Diet Coke (there was no alcohol served on this flight, because Saudi Arabia).
The starter consisted of some chicken breast with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes, and there was no choice.
For the main course I select opor ayam, one of the Indonesian specialties (chicken with coconut milk), which was very tasty.
Then for dessert, there was a mango cheesecake, and I ordered a cappuccino.
Before landing, I was impressed that a full three course meal was served as well. Often on long haul flights, the pre-landing meal will all be served on one tray, so that was a nice point of differentiation.
Garuda Indonesia’s soft product is otherwise bad
While the food and service were mostly great, unfortunately the rest of the soft product left a lot to be desired. For one, there were no menus in business class. The flight attendants were friendly, but weren’t great at explaining the dishes, so when they offered me opor ayam or sei sapi, I had to do a bit of searching online.
Next, Garuda Indonesia has absolute garbage blankets in business class. These remind me of the scratchy ones that American used to hand out in domestic first class a decade ago. At least these weren’t crusty. Still, no bueno.
Next, I’m pretty sure that the headphones weren’t just not noise canceling, but if anything, were noise amplifying. My gosh, the amount of static in these headphones was unreal.
The amenity kit also felt rather basic and cheap.
Garuda Indonesia’s inflight entertainment also leaves a bit to be desired. It’s outdated, and gives off very strong 2011 vibes. The selection wasn’t great either.
While Garuda Indonesia has Wi-Fi, unfortunately there are data caps. The airline charges $21.95 for a plan that offers 250MB of data. I burned through that pretty quickly.
I had an amazing flight in Garuda Indonesia first class several years ago, so I’ve been wanting to check out the carrier’s business class. Many warned that the airline has made some cutbacks due to the tough financial situation the company is in, and my experience matches that.
While the crew was lovely and the food was quite good, the lack of menus and the quality of amenities left quite a bit to be desired. I wouldn’t avoid Garuda Indonesia in the further if the airline had the best schedule or offered the best value, but I also wouldn’t go out of my way to fly with the airline again in business class. If anything, the most disappointing part of the experience was the ground experience, given that Jakarta is Garuda Indonesia’s hub, and the airport has a fairly new terminal.
I’m now wondering if I should fly Garuda Indonesia first class again, to see how much worse that experience has gotten since I last flew it…
What’s your take on Garuda Indonesia’s Boeing 777 business class?