As someone in the aviation business and who has now travelled extensively with various premium airlines around the World, I thought it appropriate to put together a review of a recent trip I did with the newly reinvented Garuda airline.
Up to a few years ago Garuda were seen as an airline to avoid and they were banned from operating in both North American and Europe on the grounds of safety. But after going bust, they have utterly reinvented themselves and have attracted much praise for their new product.
Why did I travel Garuda? Well to be honest the better than half price sale on first class got my attention and after reading and viewing online reviews as well as checking out the grading given by Skytrax (Better than BA by a long shot – they are a five star airline, BA is not!), so I thought why not?
I booked the flight via Trailfinders but received all my confirmations directly from a dedicated first class customer services team at Garuda. This same team then emailed me in the run up to the flight to check all my details and ask of any requirements I might have during the flight. They were also able to ask all the questions I fired at them regarding the flight and onward connections. So, on the the day of the flight. As I was arriving at Heathrow I received a call from ‘Shaf’ a first class customer service liaison who informed me that he would walk me through the check in procedure, security and onto the lounge. This he duly did, even to the point of carrying my carry on luggage. He informed me that at the appropriate time he would collect me from the lounge and take me to the waiting aircraft.
The lounge at Heathrow was a third party lounge as Garuda are not big enough to have their own and their alliance lounge (Skyteam) was in a different terminal. However, we were placed in a especially reserved area with fully complimentary food and drink during our stay. The service was efficient and low key. It would be fair to say that it doesn’t compare to other first class lounges, such as Singapores first class lounge or the BA Concorde lounge but it was pleasant enough.
As the appropriate time Shaf collected me from the lounge and walked me not just to the gate but all the way onto the aircraft, introduced me to the cabin crew and offered to place my carry on luggage into the over head locker. No other airline I have travelled with has ever done this!
Once ensconced into my seat I was presented with the customary preflight champagne, drinks and nibbles (non vintage champagne but very nice nevertheless). Garuda make a point of bagging up your shoes and giving you a very comfortable pair of slippers for the flight, which was a nice touch. The seat was very comfortable with a rather welcome massage function and a very nice touch was the fact that the seats are ‘mini suites’ with sliding doors that give you extra privacy. Shortly after take off the caviar and blinis arrived with more champagne which again was well served and beautifully presented.
As you can imagine, all the inflight food was excellent and a nice touch from Garuda was the presence of an inflight chef who prepares the food and can help with food selection and even make ‘tweaks’ to the menu for you. The wine list was very good as was the wider drinks selection. One area for improvement was the in flight entertainment. There was a wide selection of movies to choose from but not the latest releases which was a shame as the most recent movie was nearly a year old. Having said that, I managed to find several to watch on the rather huge screen.
One other area that was a slight negative was that there is only one toilet for first class and it is relatively small compared to the facilities available with other carriers. However, the staff work hard to mitigate it by letting you know when it is free and holding it for you, if they know you require the toilet. If you are getting changed into the complimentary pyjamas they have them ready and waiting for you and take your clothes away to be hung up. By the time I had changed, my seat had been made up as a bed. I can definitely say, that the bed was one of the most comfortable airline beds that I have slept on. I suffer from occasional back pain but I had no problems sleeping.
Another very pleasant surprise was the free onboard WiFi. It was not limited in anyway and lasted for the duration of the entire flight. I have never seen that on any previous flight and allowed me to annoy friends and family with regular facebook updates from 38,000ft. A further nice touch was that as the cabin lights were dimmed, the cabin was gently lit by simulated stars embedded into the ceiling.
The cabin crew were attentive without being oppressive and always polite and happy to assist even with my regular and frequent requests for snacks and drinks.
On arrival at Jakarta we were allowed off the aircraft first where I was met by another of the ground handling staff who asked for me by name and escorted me to my layover lounge. She handled immigration and customs for me, which left we utterly free of any administration. She also informed me that onward flights had been delayed but she could arrange to move me onto an earlier flight so as to mitigate the possible delay. I agreed to this and she took care of all the arrangements, including the issue of a new boarding pass whilst I was sat in the lounge. I was even shown pictures of my luggage being removed from the London flight and being loaded onto my Denpasar flight, so as to reassure me that all was well.
So to sum up my thoughts. The service and attention to detail from Garuda both on the ground and in the air was exceptional. Food and wine was excellent. Inflight entertainment could do with improvement but was adequate for this level. The lounge facilities, as I am sure Garuda would agree, are not quite on a par with the rest of the competition or the rest of the Garuda experience. Once they have their own lounges around the World or better access to Skyteam lounges, this will improve. I have never had an airline pay so much attention to customer service in such a complete end to end way. Other airlines should take note. I will be travelling Garuda first class again that is in no doubt.
Tags: Holiday Tourism Travel