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- BT Plus
- Tried & Tested
- Plan & book
- Tried & Tested
Previously I have been a frequent user of either Thai or SQ for this journey. However Thai is limited by the fact that they have only one flight per day and the return journey from Jakarta in particular is not conducive to a productive day as it is a lunchtime departure. Although SQ is an attractive option the overall journey time is just impractical and their last flight from Jakarta involves a 2pm departure. GA now have 3 flights per day on this route with this being the last flight at 17.25 pm.
The check-in at Jakarta is at the dedicated business class area and it was very smooth and efficient with very helpful staff on hand. There was no queue and within 5 minutes I was following the GA staff to the lounge. This is a big plus point as this avoids the sometimes rather lengthy immigration queues. You simply sit down in the lounge and your passport is returned within a few minutes with the stamp in place.
Unfortunately the main lounge facilities at Soekarna Hatta are undergoing a major renovation to coincide with the launch of the new first class services in October of this year. Consequently they are using a temporary facility which is rather cramped and with rather limited food and drink options. There was no alcohol available although this may have been due to the fact that this was during Ramadan.
Specific boarding announcements for each flight were made, and I headed for gate E1 which was only a short walk from the lounge at 1700.
Boarding proceeded around 5 minutes later but it was a typical Indonesian stampede without any priority benefit. The 737-800 was on a remote stand and the business class passengers used a separate van with 6 seats which was a bit more relaxing than the bus.
There are 3 rows of business class seats of which 6 out of the 12 were occupied allowing everyone to have an empty seat next to them. A hot towel and a selection of drinks were offered and I opted for the pink Billecart Rose. Push back was very rapid at 1730 and we had a short 5 minute taxi with only one Lion Air 737 in front of us.
This is probably the longest flight using this product and the short haul seats are just adequate. They have adequate space but limited recline. The IFA system is touch screen and worked well with around 15 of the latest films and a further 30-40 western titles and a relative limited number of TV programs but more than adequate for this length of flight.
Shortly after take off the crew started the meal service. Smoked chicken salad, a choice of 3 main courses which were shown to us, in case you thought the description in the menu did not do it justice! I went for the almond chicken and pak choi and steamed rice. There was a green tea panacota for dessert. There were two white wines and two reds offered. The very pleasant cabin staff (2 for the business class section) kept the drinks topped up on a regular basis throughout. The food was a notch down from SQ but perfectly adequate.
We arrived at Bangkok around 15 minutes early and after a swift taxi to the gate (no bus) we were quickly heading for the immigration. Express access passes were issued but the queues were minimal. The business class tagged bags were first to appear on the carousel within 5 minutes.
Garuda are making strides to raise their game and I will use them again. Interestingly the ticket prices are now around 15% higher than Thai, albeit that with 3 flights a day they are offering a decent schedule.