Garuda's big plans for Indonesia, Europe, SkyTeam & frequent flyers

By John Walton, November 3 2011
Garuda's big plans for Indonesia, Europe, SkyTeam & frequent flyers

Garuda Indonesia is hoping to snare business travellers from Australia with its fully flat beds and daily flights to Jakarta, which Australian Business Traveller reviewed recently.

We sat down in Jakarta with Bagus Siregar, Garuda's Senior General Manager for the Australian market, to talk more about how Garuda is planning to take business travellers by storm.

Bagus was keen to big up Garuda's new fully flat seats in business class to start off with. "The long-haul Airbus A330-200s are equipped with flat beds in Executive Class, a first for an Indonesian carrier," he told us.

Garuda is the only airline with daily flights to Indonesia's capital from Sydney -- and the only one with fully flat beds in business class. Competitor Qantas flies direct three times a week from Sydney, with angled lie-flat seats in business.

"In Australia the A330-200s are used on our Jakarta service, providing a 180 degree flat bed and a very generous 75 inch seat pitch, which is being well received by our corporate and platinum frequent flyers," Bagus explained. "Jakarta has such a strong corporate market, we believe there was a need to introduce a superior product."

Here's Garuda's flat bed cabin in flight:

"Our Denpasar service has also been refurbished with a new Executive class product – a 165 degree lie-flat bed."

Garuda demonstrated the new lie-flat bed -- also seen on Melbourne-Jakarta flights -- to Australian Business Traveller in its Jakarta airport maintenance facility, and it's not half bad for a lie-flat:

(Need a refresher on the difference between a 180 degree fully flat bed and an angled lie-flat seat? Take a look at our article explaining which one is better.)

Garuda's Bagus was also keen to highlight his airline's connecting timetable for Indonesia's economic powerhouses: "From Australia, our direct Jakarta flights from both Sydney and Melbourne have good connectivity to Jogyakarta and Solo City (Central Java)."

In additon to the Sydney and Melbourne flights, Garuda also flies to Jakarta from Perth daily.

A minus for Australian travellers is the lack of frequent flyer affiliations with Garuda's own loyalty program. Only Korean Air's program allows reciprocal earning and burning. But that changes next year.

"Garuda Indonesia is very excited about joining the SkyTeam airline alliance," Bagus enthused. Plans are on track for mid-2012, when you'll be able to earn miles and points across that airline network, although there's no Australia-based SkyTeam airline for redemptions closer to home.

Garuda also has big plans for Europe once the airline takes delivery of its Boeing 777-300ER planes next year, which CEO Emirsyah Satar outlined to Australian Business Traveller just before we sat down to press Garuda's Bagus for more details.

Garuda is planning a swish new Super First Class suite (bearing a striking resemblance to Jet Airways' offering) for its 777s, plus business and economy further back on the plane.

"As mentioned by Pak Emir this week, the Boeing 777 will be introduced in 2013 and Garuda has a total of 10 aircraft on order," Bagus told us.

"The 777 will allow GA to operate a non-stop service to Europe," explained Bagus, "and the current A330-200 will then be used on medium to long haul routes within eight hours' proximity of Jakarta."

On the cards are direct flights to London, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome, plus upgrades to the existing one-stop service to Amsterdam via Dubai.

With the strong SkyTeam European connections from Air France's hub in Paris, KLM's base in Amsterdam and Alitalia's Rome operation, Garuda sounds like an interesting option for business travellers connecting to Europe.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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