At 4:30pm today, a signing ceremony at The Mulia resort in Nusa Dua of Bali formalised Garuda Indonesia's membership to Skyteam, wrapping up a three-year process that has seen the airline upgrading its operations to meet the alliance's standards (see story).
Cabin crew members of all Skyteam airlines
Emirsyah Satar, president and chief executive of the airline, explained at a pre-dinner interview last night the decision to join Skyteam.
"With Star Alliance, Singapore Airlines and Thai are already in there; if your put in Garuda, covering Indonesia, we don't really add value. In Oneworld you got Malaysia, you got Qantas and you got Cathay – again, if you put in Garuda there, you really cannot add value or benefit much. When looking at Skyteam, there is only Vietnam Airlines [in Southeast Asia], we can add more to the alliance," he explained. He also pointed out that Garuda has established relationships with a number of major Skyteam airlines including KLM, Korean Air and China Airlines.
Emirsyah Satar, Garuda Indonesia president and chief executive
Meanwhile, in his speech, Michael Wisbrun, managing director of Skyteam, said that Garuda Indonesia, as the alliance's second Southeast Asian member, will strengthen the network's presence in one of the world's fastest growing regions.
“Garuda’s entry into the alliance will give its customers access to Skyteam’s 1,064 destinations that cover more than 90 per cent of the most relevant traffic flows in the world,” he said. “Garuda strengthens our presence throughout the Asia Pacific region for our 588 million global passengers.”
At a press conference after the signing ceremony, Satar added that the membership will attract passengers wanting to take advantage of Garuda's reach in Southeast Asia as well as Australia. "This is what we are giving for the network, for the members, to connect from Jakarta or Bali to Australia. We just opened a new city, Brisbane, last year. Right now we are more focusing on where we fly, and with more flights," he said.
The Brisbane service is served by the Denpasar (Bali) airport, in addition to direct flights to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. From Jakarta, Garuda also offers direct links to the last three aforementioned Australian cities.
Garuda has ambitious plans to enlarge its fleet to 194-strong by next year. With its Skyteam membership already expanding its coverage, what routes will the airline put its new jetliners on? "We feel that China will be big, and also Japan and Australia," Satar said, adding that for long-haul destinations Garuda will make use of the Sky Team network to reach.
Garuda Indonesia – Sky Team's newest member
But the Indonesian flag carrier is set to start flying to London Gatwick after having postponed the launch for a year due to limitations of Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta airport (see story). The problems have since been resolved and the service is scheduled to be launched this coming May alongside another direct service to Amsterdam Schiphol, Satar announced.
Business Traveller brought up the issue that airports in Indonesia, particularly Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta, are already quite congested, and whether the current facilities such as VIP lounges can handle the increasing passenger traffic expected from joining Skyteam. Satar answered: "At Soekarno-Hatta they are buidling a new terminal – Terminal 3 – which is going to be much bigger than the current Terminal 1 or the current Terminal 2 by itself. We are looking that we want to move there. They say that it will be done by 2016 or late 2015... I'd see it more as 2016. We are going to be serving more of our Skyteam members so Garuda is going to make that the Skyteam terminal."
Construction is also underway, he added, to expand the current lounges.
Garuda is the alliance's 20th member and has added 40 new destinations to the network via its hubs in Jakarta, Denpasar, Makassar, Medan, Surabaya, and Balikpapan. And effective immediately, all Garuda passengers can earn and redeem miles when flying on Skyteam member-operated flights, and vice versa when members of other Skyteam airlines’ frequent flyer programmes are flying Garuda. Skyteam airlines offer customers access to 564 lounges worldwide. From now on, the alliance offers 15,700 daily flights to 1,064 destinations in 178 countries.