The Surprising Reason Garuda Indonesia Is Postponing Plans To Fly To The US

Filed Under: Garuda Indonesia

Last June we first learned that Garuda Indonesia wanted to begin flying to the US, which I’ve been excited about. However, they had a couple of hurdles to overcome before they could do so.

The biggest hurdle was that Indonesia didn’t comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards, meaning they didn’t have the Category 1 rating required in order to operate flights to the US. Fortunately they managed to get a Category 1 rating last August, so now Indonesian airlines are allowed to start flying to the US.

This February they took the next step towards formalizing this new service, when they filed with the Department of Transportation requesting to launch 3x weekly flights between Jakarta and Los Angeles via Tokyo Narita using a Boeing 777-300ER.

I love Garuda Indonesia — they have one of my favorite first class products in the world, and have fantastic cabin crew — so I was looking forward to this. However, I was also suspicious of the logic behind the route. There’s no way they could turn a profit on this route, given there are already over a dozen airlines offering one stop service between Los Angeles and Jakarta, and prices are extremely low. So it seemed to be that the route was more for political and prestige reasons than anything else.

However, it’s now November (when the flight was supposed to launch), and we still haven’t heard anything further. We now have a formal update. Garuda Indonesia has postponed plans to fly to the United States. They claim the reason is because the Japanese government is refusing to grant the airline fifth freedom traffic rights between Tokyo and Los Angeles (meaning they couldn’t sell tickets in the market), and also because they haven’t completed administrative requirements with the US DOT.

Per The Jakarta Post:

“The Japanese government is less than supportive to the Indonesian airline to fly and take passengers from Tokyo [to the US],” Garuda Indonesia president director Pahala N. Mansury said on Tuesday.

“We are still waiting for the permit from the US Department of Transportation. The second [step] is to find a transit city.” Pahala added.

It’s possible that either of these explanations is true (at least technically), though I suspect that’s not the primary reason this route has been postponed. Garuda Indonesia has a new CEO who wants to cut service and expansion (including possibly eliminating first class), so it seems much more likely that this is the primary motivation.

I would be curious what the situation is with Japan, though, as I’m not sure on what grounds they’re “less than supportive.”

Unfortunately I guess we won’t be seeing Garuda Indonesia at LAX anytime soon.

(Tip of the hat to @agnesbyrne)

  1. Living in Japan, I can tell you that the current Japanese government is very protectionist, favoring Japanese (and specifically ANA) airlines. It wouldn’t be surprising if they didn’t cooperate with 5th freedom routes or foreign airlines (unless they partner with ANA), as it would compete with ANA’s flights to LAX.

  2. Yeah this explanation doesn’t pass the smell test, seeing as they specifically noted in their request they would fly via Tokyo or a different airport. If Tokyo won’t work, they could go through ICN, TPE, HKG, etc.

  3. Not sure specifically about this 5th freedom request, but the Japanese government has, in general, been less than thrilled with the one-sidedness of its air treaties. Japan is a convenient stopping point for transpac traffic, but neither the US nor Indonesia offer similar opportunities for Japanese carriers. It’s worth noting that the ASEAN treaties on open-air access don’t call for 5th freedom rights outside of ASEAN, so it very well may be that Japan simply doesn’t want to allow another airline to compete on the US-Japan market.

  4. duh, the quote came from a GA exec. of course he’ll be assigning blame to both Japan and US DOT instead of any potential shortfalls or incompetencies of their own – e.g. their constant re-jigging of the CGK-(SIN)-(AMS)-London route doesn’t lend much credence that they have their long-haul act truly together.

  5. Garuda is an airline for Premium passangers. Its economy class is nothing special as in ANA or other Asian airlines.

  6. Garuda are going to fly CGK-NAN-LAX using NAN-LAX as a 5th freedom, taking out the monopoly of FJ- 90% sure this will happen.

  7. As a skyteam carrier they could possibly stopover at a multitude of Chinese points, Seoul or Taipei.

    Busan may be an idea. Codeshare with Korean and delta. There’s long been talk of flights to LA

    Guam or Manila could be an option. If it were Japan, then why not Nagoya?

  8. @Icarus keep in mind the airline also has to feed the Japan-LA flights using connections to/from both CGK and DPS. If they stick to Tokyo, then they’ll either have to switch their CGK flights to NRT or DPS flights to HND – this makes more sense because DPS-NRT is already operated by 3-class 777s.

    They should really try flying China-US since demand is healthy and growing, via Beijing or Shanghai – but neither airports are as nice as HND or NRT, and the Chinese authorities are known to be very protectionist (remember how hard it was for AA to score nicely timed slots for Beijing 787 flights?). TPE is tough because they rely on feeder traffic from China & Southeast Asia.

    I don’t know, I might well suggest that they go via HKG and challenge the Cathay/AA oneworld monopoly. Work with Hong Kong Airlines and/or Delta.

    ICN is a good option that should be considered as well. KE’s schedule for CGK-US are not very ideal, and their economy class has better seat pitch compared to GA (34″ vs standard 32″). Moreover, KE’s J-class prices for CGK-ICN are almost always lower – assuming the same is true for economy, GA is at a serious advantage if they were to compete against KE

  9. Decisions made by the Indonesian government with regard to what they consider to be strategic national assets, are — unfortunately for Indonesians — never made with business considerations in mind. The Republic of Indonesia is perfectly willing to sacrifice profit and prosperity in exchange for arbitrary nationalist goals. I have no doubts that Garuda wants to fly to Los Angeles, and even though it may be destined to lose money, it will be far from the most costly and foolhardy decision undertaken by Indonesian economic ministers. The government is presently too busy punishing any foreign national resources company with the temerity to have invested money and expertise in Indonesia, destroying their projects and forcing them out of the country — at a cost to Indonesia of many tens of billions of dollars — to worry about a Garuda route that might lose a paltry few million dollars a year. When they start the flights, I will gladly accept their offer to subsidize my luxury travel to Asia (for Garuda is truly an excellent carrier with first rate service) paid for by less fortunate Indonesians.

  10. Am i only one here that wish Garuda had fifth freedom flights from Europe to US instead via Japan , or just operate fifth freedom flight for intra europe ? Like SQ FRA-JFK, Like honestly, not really much people tempted to visit Indonesia (this came from native), only some wants to visit Bali, so dragging those passengers to have a layover or start their flights via Indonesia is just bothering them, especially for those who live on US.

  11. Korean air, China airlines, Malaysia airlines, Thai, air Asia x, they all are (were) flying from nrt or kix to lax or hnl. Not to mention Delta, United.
    I don’t think it will be because of Japanese government.
    They could fly to the US from anywhere else. If Japanese government is refusing to permit
    But they aren’t…
    It’s just like another south Asian BS to me.

  12. To my knowledge the 5th freedom is reciprocal so that Indonesia must grant Japan the similar freedom they may want to have beyond any points in Indonesia to /from any points at 3rd countries

  13. @Dwi – i doubt this route gonna work anytime soon, apart from political issues between Indonesia and US, and, if Indonesia grant Japanese Carrier such as ANA or JAL to have a fifth freedom flights, i cant really think for a likely routes. Indonesia is more likely a final destination, not a layover place, unlike Japan that got shortest route to LA rather than have to go all the way to the west. I don’t know why they didn’t want to make a stop on Fiji, or Sydney, maybe because they try to find a layover place that not require a visa for native passenger.

  14. Well according to this article Garuda has cut first class from all but 2 777s (for the LHR route, which are now already nonstop on both ways).

    If they want to densify their 777, might as well reconfigure their business class with APEX Suites in the future? I for one favour the Apex over the current Stelia Solstys

  15. I would think CGK-HNL (connections to all points USA on Delta) would be less risky if Garuda could codeshare with Delta

  16. Also noteworthy (though not really seen/announced anywhere else) is that they’ve managed to retime their Melbourne flights in order to feed traffic to & from London. I tried booking a Thursday departure out of London and Tuesday out of Melbourne (8 to 20 February ’18) – and Garuda offers the cheapest one-stop business class (at least using Skyscanner). Just have to wait for a few days and I’ll probably book my first Kangaroo route on Garuda!

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