Review: The new Garuda Indonesia Experience

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The Story

On Thursday, 23 July 2009, the President of the Republic of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono officially opened the new "Garuda Indonesia Management Building" located in an area known as the "Garuda Indonesia City Center", at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport, Jakarta

The occasion was also marked by the official launching of the new Garuda Indonesia "Corporate Identity Brand Refresh" and two brand new aircraft, the Airbus A330-200 and Boeing B-737-800NG (Next Generation) fitted up with sophisticated audio & video entertainment system, and sporting a modernized interior and exterior that reflect the "corporate identity brand refresh" image.

The new concept in service includes brand new aircraft equipped with modernized interior and exterior, state-of-the-art entertainment and the uniquely "Garuda Indonesia Experience (Indonesian Hospitality)"

The airline's ongoing improvements also revealed a new corporate identity brand refresh. The concept behind the change was inspired by "nature's wing" or a reflection of a bird's wing on water and the shape of flower petals commonly found in Indonesia. The spirit of the newly refreshed corporate identity still maintains the two main elements of the old logo, the symbol (bird) and the typography (font). Compared to the cool natural colors (blue, green and aqua) of the old logo, the new refreshed brand displays a wider spectrum of colors and a modern typeface that complements the bird symbol. The choice of dark grey for the font color bridges the transition to the new hues of brown, red and orange that appears in the interior of the new Garuda Indonesia aircraft. The Garuda Indonesia's refreshed corporate identity and its system was designed by Landor Associates, a branding consultancy that also designed the original identity in 1985.

The new Garuda Corporate Image endorsed by President of the Republic of Indonesia, Dr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

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Co-incide the launch of new Corporate image and new service concept, the "Garuda Indonesia Experience", Garuda also launched a 3 times weekly Jakarta to Sydney direct nonstop service by their brand new A330-200 aircraft on 1 August.

The three flights will be using Airbus A330-200 with seating capacity of 36 business class and 186 seats in economy class. The "brand new" aircraft equipped with a sophisticated "in-flight entertainment (IFE)" of "audio & video on demand (AVOD)" on every seat with 25 movie choices, 10 TV programs, 35 options of music albums as well as 25 interactive video games. Business class seat of A-330-200 has also been equipped with "flat bed" seat that can be set up to 180 degrees.

The Journey

August 7, 2009 Sydney to Jakarta

The check in at Sydney airport for Garuda was handled by Qantas in very orderly fashion with 2 Business Class counters and 4 Economy Class counters. It was low season to fly out of Sydney in the middle of the winter. I was informed today's flight will have 115 passenger onboard, with just over 50% load factor. This is quite good consider this was only the 3rd service to Jakarta since the inaugural on August 2nd.  Garuda invites Business Class customer to use Qantas Business Class lounge.

Any frequent traveler would probably agree that the pre-curser to any pleasant flying experience is being "on time". Garuda deliver exactly that, and so we got off to an excellent start. I found the ground staff highly professional, very pleasant and interested in assisting us.

New Airbus 330-200 PK-GPH awaits to take us to Jakarta at Gate 34

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Onboard the new A330-200

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Once step inside the brand new airplane, it has a bright and catchy cabin to please with the traveler's eyes. Business Class feature 180 degree fully flat seats up to 74" seat pitch. There were 13 passengers include myself onboard in Business Class. There are 2 small Business Class cabin and 2 Economy main cabin on this new A330-200.

We pushed back ten minutes early with a lengthy taxi to the end of Rwy 34L and we were airborne at 10:07 local time.

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The Airbus rotated quickly out of Rwy 34L heading for North direction. Sydney Airport International Terminal underneath our plane.

The In-Flight Service

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Drinks were served promptly along with savory snacks once the plane have reached its initial cruising altitude. There were a choice of Australian White/Red and Champagne. A full lunch service to be followed within 30 minutes. The crew came and set up the table with new linen individually, but there were no lunch menu to be hand out.

3 friendly cabin crew of Garuda Indonesia during drink service.

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The lunch consists of Chicken noodle as appetizer with garden green salad. It is served in a tray along with a Chocolate mousse cake, cheese and cracker.

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Another view of the generous seat pitch of Business Class seat with dining option and PTV display

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The main course followed, with 3 choices consist of lamb with fried rice, chicken curry or Bake fish with black bean sauce. I opted for the fish and found it fresh and good portion.

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During the lunch, I have the chance to try out the entertainment system offered on this new Airbus. It features a 11 inches touchable screen with 3 language display (English, French and Chinese). It offers choices of movies, music album and games. It is a simple system and yet fully functional. Although this is only the 3rd service by A330-200, passenger did not encounter any IFE problem during the flight. One thing to note is that there is no In-flight air map option from the option.

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After lunch service, tea and coffee was served along with chocolate.

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Cruising at 40,000 feet, a total journey of 3,428 miles to Jakarta

Travelling as a guest of Garuda Indonesia and as a visiting journalist to Indonesia, the airline kindly granted a visit to the cockpit. During the visit, GA713 is cruising at 40,000 feet over Gulf of Carpentaria with 300 some spare miles to reach Darwin.  The Captain explained due to the lack of Extended Twin Engines Operation Performance Standard (ETOPS), the flight to Jakarta is taking a more North-Easterly direction track instead of the usual North-westerly results in 20-30 minutes longer enroute.

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Part of the Gulf of Carpentaria can be seen in the left hand side of our aircraft, thanks to the day flight and good visibility.

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View from window passing the Timor Sea after passing Darwin before we track west for Java. A smooth cruise with clear skies above 40,000 feet

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There is no second meal due to the shorter duration of scheduled flight. However Garuda knows how to treat its passenger with an afternoon ice cream prior to arrival. The usual coffee/tea was also served. At this point, mood light has been turned on in the cabin to makes the journey more enjoyable for all passengers.

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The New Seats

Business Class :Full 180 degrees flat seat fits well with a 6"1 person. There is power outlet, individually reading lamp, foot rest, adjustable head rest and shoe and personal storage space.

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Economy Class: Inviting brown coated seat with 32 seat pitch and 6 degrees recline, touch screen PTV. A total of 186 seats across 2 main cabins.

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I was able to rest for a few hours and enjoyed all aspect of the flight. The seat goes complete flat 180 degrees and it is very comfortable in sleeping position. Congratulation to Garuda choosing the complete flat bed over the lie flat sliding seat. The flight was very quiet and smooth, we literally did not encounter any turbulence but the Captain do turn on seat belts numerous time for caution. The cabin attendant were attentive, with frequent checks of the cabin and refill of water beverage. Garuda also offer Duty Free Sales in-flight with competitive prices over a wide range of products.

The Arrival

Flight GA713 commenced descend about 25 minutes prior to arrival, the atmosphere outside of the plane window suggest we're back in warm territory and particularly inviting. Jakarta is in good visibility. We landed precisely on-time at 14:30 local time on Runway 07L with a quick taxi to Terminal 2E of Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta International for arrival formalities.

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The Overall Experience

For me, the Garuda Indonesia staff looked fresh, professional and were very service oriented, even with a rare responsive sense of humor. Perhaps most important of all, their confidence gave a certain assurance of safety. With new aircraft, routes, cabin and products, Garuda Indonesia has set a very high standard to follow. It is impressive how Garuda turns around in such a short time and launched the new product in the current downturn of economic times. 

Under the new management, I expect better days yet to arrive for the airline. Overall, what a pleasant in-flight experience with them! I highly recommend the new Garuda Indonesia experience! Congratulations to Garuda, a step closer to its ambitious goal to become a Skytrax 5 star airlines in the upcoming years.

 

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