First Class Singapore to London Heathrow
Now that we were on a First Class leg, Garuda provided there now customary ground handling agent. It must be noted that I received an email from Garuda confirming all this prior to check in and asking if there was any last minute issues or requests. We arrived at the check in where we were met by the Garuda agent who saw us through the check in procedure, immigration and took us to the lounge. She also gave us the time that she would be collecting us, in a golf buggy, to take us to the gate.
The lounge, was another third party lounge on contract to Garuda as they obviously do not have their own at Singapore. There was a small sitting area dedicated for first class passengers but there was no table service or complimentary champagne. There was a small selection of snacks, oversized pot noodles and the usual soft drinks. Alcoholic drinks were limited to several brands of both white and red wine and a selection of local beers. The WiFi was solid but slow despite only a few people being present in the lounge. To be honest this setup is in no way ‘first class’ and doesn’t compare in anyway to the Singapore first class lounge nearby. I think Garuda would be the first ones to admit that their lounge situation around the world is their Achilles heel at the moment when it comes to a complete ‘first class’ package.
At the appropriate time we were whisked from the lounge to the gate, although at one point with the high density of travellers in the departure area it was actually slow going! The handling agent walked us through security and onto the plane were, as usual now, we were handed over to the cabin crew.
I honestly thought that the levels of understated, gentle attentive service that I experienced on our leg from London Heathrow to Jakarta could not be surpassed or bettered. They cabin crew on GA086 proved me wrong. All the first class cabin crew introduced themselves to us and asked how we would like to be addressed, pyjamas and slippers were issued and drinks promptly served. At all times the staff were at plains to ensure everything was perfect and that if there was anything more they could do then we had only to ask. This may seem excessive but it never felt as though it was. The chef came to my seat to discuss meal and wine options and was very happy to discuss possibilities. everything was executed smoothly, precisely and with that now customary smile and elegance that I have now come to expect of Garuda.
The tasty and beautifully presented was served with an excellent Pomerol followed by cheese, desert and green tea served in a lovely tea set at my seat. The wine selection, despite non vintage champagne, is easily a match for other larger premium carrier and there is plenty of it. After such a culinary delight however, another weakness in the Garuda experience reared its head. The inflight entertainment is not quite a ‘first class’ experience. The movies are a little dated with the most recent big movie being the best part of a year old and none of the new summer releases. The system works well, its just the content could do with refreshing more often.
My bed was made up whilst I changed in the single rather small first class cabin toilet, where i took advantage of the rather pleasant toiletries. On my return to my seat I was given the access code for the complimentary WiFi, that lasted for the duration of the flight. It was a little slow at times but nevertheless, I don’t know many carriers that offer WiFi totally complimentary even in first class. Again the massaging seat cum bed was very comfortable and a few decent hours sleep ensued.
Once I woke, I was offered tea and a lighter meal and I accepted both. The food on Garuda has been consistently excellent and hard to refuse. After my meal I settled down to some work (including this review) and periodically whilst I was working the cabin crew kept me ‘topped up’ with snacks and drinks. I think they were worried I might waste away from working during the flight! The green tea that they served me was excellent and beautifully served in a traditional tea pot and small bowl.
Prior to arrival the staff were very efficient in clearing away the mattresses and preparing the cabin for landing. Once we landed they also ensured that we were first off the aircraft where we were met by yet more ground handling staff who whisked us very efficiently through the arrivals procedure, collected our bags for us and assisted us all the way to loading our onward transport. A totally ‘end to end’ service you could say!
Overall the Garuda experience was excellent, there are some weak points that do keep rearing their heads. These are the lack of true first class lounges and the ‘not quite first class IFE’, but the attitude to customer service and its execution are like nothing I have seen with other airlines. Great product, excellent service and competitively priced. No wonder Garuda are a Skytrax 5 star airline