BACKGROUND Indonesia’s flag carrier has been steadily reviving its image, starting in 2009 with a slew of new B737-800 aircraft, followed by a series of enhancements both on board and on the ground – the latest, a premium check-in zone at its base at Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta airport – and an expanding route network. From November, Garuda will operate six times a week nonstop between London Gatwick and Jakarta using brand new B777-300ERs configured with three classes (first, business and economy). Shortly afterwards, the carrier will re-enter the Kangaroo route, with the Gatwick service connecting in Jakarta with onward flights to Perth, Melbourne and Sydney.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Hong Kong International Terminal 1 at 0745 for my departure on Garuda flight 873, one of two daily flights between Hong Kong and the Indonesian capital, at 0910. The airline desks were in Row F.
THE LOUNGE The airline does not have a dedicated executive facility at Hong Kong International, and instead offers business class passengers and members of its Garuda Frequent Flyer scheme use of the Plaza Premium Lounge, which is located near Gate 1. Once I had cleared security and immigration, it was 0820, which gave me no time to pop by the lounge facilities – I spotted the queue already briskly moving into the airbridge and didn’t want to risk holding up the plane.
BOARDING I found my seat in the business class cabin – there were three rows configured 2-2 (A-C, H-K) – I was in 3A. In economy, the layout is 3-3 (A-B-C, H-J-K). Once I was settled, a crew member came around with towels and urged me to sample their tamarillo drink – made from a fruit that’s used in chutneys, and is said to go well with vanilla ice cream. It had a tart and vibrant taste, and I downed it with pleasure.
THE SEAT The roomy business product on Garuda’s B737-800 certainly does the job in the comfort department. The cradle-style seat has a width of 19in/48cm and a pitch of 42in/107cm. The pillow on the top part of the seat can be adjusted on either side to support your neck if you want to lean towards the right or left, while a gooseneck reading light at shoulder level supplements the overhead lighting.
A nine-inch in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitor comes out from under the armrest, which is where you also find the seat and TV control buttons. There is also a touchscreen function. The IFE selection appeared wide ranging, although no matter how long I studied the line-up, none of the titles inspired me.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? I had no complaints about a window location, which is always a bit further from the activity of the crew going back and forth on the aisle during meal service. Seats C and H on row one seemed to be the most exposed to the bustle. Still, with the cabin so compact, a sense of relaxed intimacy is guaranteed.
THE FLIGHT It was tough choosing between the roast chicken with egg-fried rice and the beef rendang, but I went for the former. The third choice was pan-fried snapper with Romesco sauce. On the side was a mixed salad with vinaigrette dressing and the dessert was yoghurt mousse with raspberry sauce. While not a wine drinker, I noted the cellar featured Michel Léon Riesling, Alsaçe, 2009, Westend Richland Chardonnay and Billecart-Salmon Brut Noir, among others. After my tray was cleared I reclined my seat to its maximum angle (120 degrees) and had an adequate snooze, waking to the final food offering of noodles and Oreo cookies before we went into descent mode.
ARRIVAL It was a long walk from our gate to the immigration hall.
VERDICT The service on board was efficient and accompanied by the familiar warmth for which Indonesians are known. A back-row window seat is desirable for privacy.
DEPARTURE TIME 0910
FLIGHT TIME 4hrs 20 mins
PLANE TYPE B737-800
SEAT WIDTH 19in/48cm
SEAT PITCH 42in/107cm
SEAT RECLINE 120 degrees
PRICE Rates for a return business class flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta in July ranged between £1,753 and £2,137 depending on flexibility.
CONTACT Tel +44 (0)1293 844 963; garuda-indonesia.com.
Report by Margie T Logarta