Garuda Indonesia joins the SkyTeam alliance today as the airline continues its push towards the centre of global stage.
It’s a road which the airline must take one step at a time, says Garuda Indonesia CEO Emirsyah Satar, but his goal is for Garuda “to become one of the best airlines in the world.”
Signing up with SkyTeam is part of that journey and “will fortify our position as a global player, and bring Garuda into the global arena (with) global standards" predicts Satar as he enters the final year of a five-year ‘Quantum Leap’ expansion plan which began in 2009 to add new planes, new routes and improve service.
The global network afforded by SkyTeam’s 19 members are a major drawcard for Garuda, which with the swish of a pen and the flick of a switch has added over 1,000 destinations to its route map in the form of codeshare flights with its new siblings.
Garuda also has a few new routes of its own on the way, with direct flights from Jakarta to London and Amsterdam slated for late May.
Safety concerns "less an issue"
Those flights will spearhead Garuda's return to Europe almost seven years after the airline was banned from European air space when EU air safety experts deemed the airline to be unsafe.
That’s another significant step on Garuda’s journey, Satar says, with the airline now meeting the global IOSA safety standards for flight operations, maintenance and safety management systems.
Airlineratings.com lists Garuda’s safety rating as five out of a possible top score of seven, noting the airline has shown “significant improvement in public perception with advances in safety, training and in-flight product.”
Satar says research conducted by the airline indicates that its safety is becoming less of an issue for Australians, despite the five Australians being among the 21 people killed in match 2007 when a domestic Garuda flight overshot runway at Yogyakarta Airport.
In time, Satar says, travellers will judge Garuda on its recent safety record along with the airline’s planes, seats and service.
A fresh fleet
The planes will be a strong element in the ‘Garuda experience’ as the airline ramps up fleet of long-range Boeing 777-300ER jets with a new first class cabin (below).
Garuda will be going all out for its share of the Australian market – especially premium travellers who book into business and first class – although it enters what is already a highly competitive market.
Garuda will also invest heavily in new aircraft in an effort to keep its fleet relatively fresh and young.
The airline says its current fleet age is just under six years, compared to around 10 years for Qantas, and “we want to maintain a five year average (age)” Satar says.
Satar expects to place what he describes as a “quite substantial” order this year for the next generation of its long-range fleet, with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777X and Airbus A350 all in the mix.
“We are looking at the Dreamliner compared to the (Airbus) A350, and we are looking at the A350-1000 compared to the Boeing 777X” Satar told Australian Business Traveller.
David Flynn travelled to Bali for the Garuda-SkyTeam media event as a guest of Garuda Indonesia
Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT