Flight test: Garuda

By David Flynn, September 4 2013

We’re always on the look-out for ways to streamline business travel, and Garuda Indonesia’s inflight immigration service certainly ticks that box.

Currently available on Garuda flights to Jakarta from Sydney – along with Shanghai, Tokyo and Osaka – it’s the quickest way to both get your visa and scoot through Indonesian immigration.

For starters, you don’t need to visit the the Indonesian consulate in advance of your trip or queue up to get a visa on arrival at Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta International Airport.

Under the ‘Immigration on Board’ service, which is currently exclusive to Garuda, you get your visa at the airport and are cleared by immigration officials during your flight.

It’s available to passengers in all travel classes and costs the same US$25 as if your visa was issued on the ground. Here’s how it works.

1. When you check in for your Garuda flight at Sydney or Melbourne airport, you pay around A$27 (adjusted to match the current exchange rate against US$25) to receive a ‘visa on arrival’ receipt.

Note that Garuda takes only cash payments and only correct change. If it’s not too busy the staff may break a larger note for you, otherwise you’ll need to hunt down the change.

This is one aspect of the scheme which needs to be improved, because few people would have an exact $27 rattling around. I have the feeling that even handing over $30 and saying “Keep the change” may be complicating things too much for the bureaucracy!  

2. During your flight, complete the immigration forms on board when they’re handed out by Garuda’s cabin crew.

Once your flight leaves Australian airspace and enters international territory, two Indonesian immigration officers will work their through the plane, processing your immigration form and stamping your passport right there while you cruise at 30,000 feet enjoying a glass of whatever takes your fancy.

You’ll also receive a blue pass indicating you’ve been pre-cleared.

And yes, these are actual immigration officers employed by the Indonesian government – not outsourced contract staff – who have flown all the way to Australia to stamp your passport on the way back.

This must qualify as one of the most sought-after jobs in the immigration service! 

3. On arrival at Soekarno Hatta International Airport, follow the signs to the ‘fast track’ immigration lane.

You may see many other travellers veering left for the Visa on Arrival counter, but just keep powering forward with that blue pre-clearance slip in hand.

When you get to the immigration counters, veer left to the overhead blue sign for the Saphire EiS-i Card lane, hand over your blue pass and you’re done.

How easy is that? We’d love to see more countries and airlines implementing a system like this.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

What a massive waste of money for something that seems like a novelty? Wouldn't it make more sense to have additional immigration staff on the ground than having them deadheading around the world?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

*David Whitehill's voice*

Welcome to the beginning of a new era in immigration clearance. What you would experience is the first step in Indonesia's vision to create the arrival procedure of the future, right here on your Garuda flight.

Now imagine if you could just arrive. Jakarta did. The result? Onboard immigration service, a faster, more streamlined immigration process that allows you to breeze through the arrivals area and onto Jakarta.

It's no secret we'd all like a faster, more streamlined journey through the terminal, with fewer queues and greater recognition to the business you bring overseas.

Well, I'm pleased to say that the onboard immigration service aims to offer just this. Read the article properly, and it'll show you what I mean.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1242

If this was offered on flights to the USA, I would  pay extra just to avoid the 2hour wait I've experienced the last 2 times I entered the USA... of course it won't happen.

However, the USA did have Customs officers stationed in Shannon, Ireland to do border formalities prior to boarding (now axed) and there are discussions about them opening one in Abu Dhabi.

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 952

USCBP still has officers stationed in Shannon. They have just reduced the hours the pre clearance office is open. They also have preclearance offices at most major Candian airports and many of the island nations of the US South East coast.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1242

I stand corrected... I heard they got boned.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jan 2012

Total posts 171

I thought they also offered this service for their flights to Denpasar (Bali)?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1383

Note for those with APEC Cards, that you don't have to pay the fee in Australia (obviously) but the onboard officer is still able to process you.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

I think this is great, and I'd happily hand over $30 (keep the change lol) for the chance to speed through immigration. Shame they can't just roll the price into your ticket purchase (as an option, for example).

I was surprised to read though, that its on-board immigration officers who do the work (when I read the headline I thought it would have been cabin crew doing the donkey work, collecting information to be fed back for processing on-ground while pax in the air). Pretty amazing really, and certainly an unusual duty for the officers on board! 

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 952

I believe Indonesia does a simliar thing with cruse ships heading from Australia to Bali.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

Government labour is cheap there, anyway, and in any case it would likely be a sought-after duty. I could imagine that it would get a bit hard on them after a while, though, since they need to pass' out to Australia on red-eye flights.

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