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REVIEW – Garuda Indonesia : Business Class – London LHR to Jakarta CGK (B777)

garuda mini cabin business 777

I was surprised to see that Garuda don't block the bulkhead seats and quickly swooped this one up as soon as I booked my flight.

Garuda Indonesia (GA)


Intro


Garuda is, with all the affection in the world, something of an oddball airline.

I’ve been sitting on this report for a while, wondering whether or not to publish it – more for the sake of posterity than anything else. At the time when I took this flight Garuda was flying direct from London to Jakarta but flying indirect on the way back (stopping in Singapore). This was due to the poor runway quality, meaning that a fully fueled 777 couldn’t take off from Jakarta.

Prior to this Garuda had tried routing via Amsterdam, departing from Gatwick rather than Heathrow. Since I took this flight the route was cancelled for a few months, only to be replaced by London to Bali direct. That route has now also been cancelled and is currently replaced by London to Medan – a city which is neither the political, industrial or tourist capital of Indonesia.

Scheduling peculiarities aside though, Garuda is an airline that I had previously only encountered on my internal flights within Indonesia and I was really curious to see how the seat and service that I had loved so much would measure up on a true long haul flight.

 


Pre-Departure


When I took this flight Garuda were located at Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and were using the rather basic Priority Pass lounge, even for their First Class Passengers. They’ve since transferred to Terminal 4, with the free for all that is the Skyteam lounge. Neither of these lounges makes a particularly good impression for a passenger travelling in a premium cabin.

Boarding was very well organised though, with First Class passengers being quietly ushered onto the plane by their personal escorts before Business Class passengers were called to board over the PA.

My previous experience with Garuda’s Business Class had been on a plane that had no F cabin and a very large Business section. This time around the configuration resulted in a very small and private mini-cabin of Business Class directly behind First. I selected Seat 6K at the very front of it.

Garuda Cabin Map
GA J 77W LHR-CGK-1
garuda mini cabin business 777

I was surprised to see that Garuda don’t block the bulkhead seats and quickly swooped this one up as soon as I booked my flight.

 

GA J 77W LHR-CGK-6
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Garuda uses standard Sogerama Solstys seats on their 777 Business Class, a configuration which is extremely private when you are seated in a true window seat, with the table on the outside. All seats have direct aisle access and a good amount of counter space. The advantage of the bulkhead seats is that you also have an extra space on which you can open a hard shell case.

This seating configuration is the precursor to the new 787 seats used by Singapore and now also Turkish. Seats where privacy shielding is the most notable addition (other than overall modernisation of the seat trim).

When you see the aisle seats you can see why:

garuda 777 business class

The aisle seats are considerably less private than the ones by the window, since they are almost shoulder to shoulder with the seat across the aisle and have no eye level privacy shielding at all.

This is exactly the same issue that was addressed in the second generation of reverse herringbone seats after the seats pioneered by US Airways were found to be lacking in privacy. I’m honestly surprised that another seat manufacturer went and made the same mistake…

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The seat is quite limited in terms of storage options. There is only one proper compartment and upon boarding it was entirely occupied with the water bottle and headphones that had been placed there for me. (Again, this is something that has been addressed by SQ and TK with their new seat as it features a storage cupboard on top of the side table.)

The seat features two USB sockets as well as a universal power socket.

The IFE screen is quite small and low resolution, with a very large plastic bezel surrounding it. Given the choice of beige plastic trim, I couldn’t help feeling like I was sat in an office cubicle using Windows 95.

garuda business class IFE

The interface was definitely reminiscent of a bygone era.

As I settled into my seat a flight attendant came to offer me a welcome drink – I asked for champagne.

She returned a few moments later to pour a glass of Billecart Salmon Rosé at my seat. I was really impressed to see a wine of this quality in a Business Class cabin and even more impressed to have it properly poured into a long stemmed flute. So many other airlines make do with pre-poured trays in thimble sized glasses but Garuda certainly realises that first impressions count.

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I was also brought a warm and thick hand towel of a similar quality to those used by Qatar (albeit without the choice between hot and cold) and an amenity kit by L’Occitane.

garuda amenity kit
garuda amenity kit
garuda amenity kit

I then took the opportunity to make myself more comfortable by changing into the slippers provided in the kit.

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This is a small touch that most carriers reserve for First Class and even then airlines like BA only do so “on request”. So kudos to Garuda for handing them out to all passengers in Business as standard.

 

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After a quick top up of everybody’s champagne we pushed back on time, on this beautiful London evening…

 


The Flight


Once we were airborne the crew quickly jumped into action. The mini-cabin was unusually empty (the cause or the result of this route being changed so frequently?) so the crew had plenty of time to interact with each passenger, providing a truly personal service.

garuda champagne
garuda mini cabin business 777

The champagne was served with a ramekin of warm almonds as well as an amuse bouche tartlete. Plenty of airlines have cut back on this level of service in First so to see this in Business Class was, again, remarkable.

The FAs took dinner orders as they served our drinks. There was a choice of four starters and four main courses, most of which veered towards an Asian flavour palate, which was fine by me ?


Food Menu

Drinks Menu

 

Although Garuda offers paid wifi onboardAlthough Garuda offers paid wifi onboard
I couldn't resist watching Inception again on the IFEI couldn't resist watching Inception again on the IFE

The table setting on Garuda Business is very impressive: freshly pressed linen tablecloths, full sized cutlery and glassware, side plates and a bread basket.

garuda business dinner

I started with the Gado Gado which wasn’t the most beautifully presented but had the same subtle blend of flavours that I enjoy when ordering this dish in restaurants.

garuda business class dinner

This was followed by a main course of honey glazed duck with braised red cabbage, potato fritters and asparagus. The dish not only looked spectacular, it was also cooked to perfection. The duck was moist without being chewy. The fritters maintained the crunch on the outside and the asparagus was firm to the bite. Fantastic all round.

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I ordered the salted caramel fondant with vanilla ice cream and strawberries to finish. It. Was. Incredible.

I was very impressed to see the always superb Noble One Botrytis being offered as a dessert wine and had a glass to accompany the fondant. I then selected a peppermint tea from the extensive tea selection to bring the meal to its conclusion.

After that feast I was ready to get some sleep, I had brought my own sleepwear since I know that Garuda doesn’t supply it in Business – one of the very few areas in which they don’t go above and beyond with their soft product.

garuda buffet area

Since we had such a light load on this flight, I noticed that the crew had set up a small buffet area just for mini-cabin guests. How amazing is that?

 

Basic looking economy finishesBasic looking economy finishes
L'Occitane cologneL'Occitane cologne
Dental kitsDental kits
More L'OccitaneMore L'Occitane
Not the most spacious...Not the most spacious...

I returned to find my bed made for me, there was no mattress pad but the duvet was very thick and luxurious and I had an abundance of large fluffy pillows to ensure my comfort.

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starry sky garuda 777

Once most of the passengers had settled into their beds the crew turned on the starry night sky. My bedroom when I was growing up had glow in the dark stars on the ceiling and I couldn’t help imagining what my young self would have thought of the idea that one day I’d be here…

I woke up after about six hours of sleep and ordered some mixed satay skewers.

These were good but nowhere near the level of the satay served by SQ, where a crisp maillard reaction gives a distinct crunch of lemongrass to every mouthful.

 

I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself when I switched on the live TV to see this pop up on the news. Some things never change…

After my sweet hit of schadenfreude I watched another film and started to edit some of my photos from the flight. Soon enough, that familiar smell of breakfast began to fill the cabin.

garuda business class breakfast

The fruit was very well presented and exceptionally fresh. The yoghurt was also served in a bowl rather than the plastic tubs used by a lot of other airlines (even in First).

garuda indonesian breakfast business class

I was once again impressed by Garuda when I saw that they cook eggs fresh to order for every passenger in Business Class, but couldn’t resist ordering the Indonesian breakfast as my main. I’m so glad I did. It was absolutely unbelievable. Egg on toast has got nothing on this.

coffee garuda business

I finished with a single origin espresso macchiato. Despite the fact that espresso based coffee is consumed all over the world as an absolute basic necessity (particularly in the world of business) it is still surprising how many carriers think they can get away with serving watery swill. Garuda could have made do with basic Nespresso and still beaten their peers but once again they went above and beyond.

 


Conclusion


This flight didn’t start off in the best way. The lack of a decent lounge can be hard to overcome as you immediately start off on the wrong foot.

However, from the moment I stepped on board I knew I was in for something special. So many aspects of Garuda’s Business Class are delivered on a First Class level that I was actually slightly worried that First would seem like a disappointment in comparison!

  1. Full sized cutlery and stemware
  2. Slippers for all passengers
  3. An amuse bouche served with pre dinner drinks
  4. Bed turndown service
  5. Dessert wine
  6. A variety of espresso based coffees

The seat may not be the most modern, particularly when it comes to the IFE but it is still comfortable, provides aisle access for all passengers and has seats to suit both couples and solo passengers.

Above all the crew were exceptional. They were thoughtful, proactive, friendly, courteous and thoroughly professional throughout. They were truly up there with the likes of Singapore and the Japanese carriers. Nothing was too much bother for them and often they would go out of their way to suggest ways in which they could make your flight better.

If only Garuda could deliver this route with any consistency, they should easily be able to command a premium for this product. Unfortunately Business Class revenue tends to come from businesses and few things bother corporate travel managers as much as a lack of certainty. Here’s hoping that we see the return of this route on a permanent basis going forward…

 


Garuda Adventure : A weekend in Jakarta

Part 1:
Garuda Indonesia : Business Class – B777 – London to Jakarta
Part 2:
Ritz Carlton Jakarta, Mega Kuningan : Spa Terrace
Part 3:
Garuda Indonesia First Class Lounge : Jakarta
Part 4:
Garuda Indonesia : First Class – B777 – Jakarta to London

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