Review of Garuda Indonesia flight Singapore Surabaya in Economy

Airline Garuda Indonesia
Flight GA855
Class Economy
Seat 25C
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 2:25
Take-off 08 Dec 15, 19:35
Arrival at 08 Dec 15, 21:00
GA   #3 out of 106 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 122 reviews
Eric V P
By 1803
Published on 12th January 2016
Hi all,

This is my first trip report here. Hope you like it! :)
I'm not sure why, but quite some photos aren't rotated as it should be, even after I rotated it.


Background
I am currently studying in Singapore as an university student. Having done with my exams for semester 1 (finally!), I am going back to Madiun, a small city around 4 hours from Surabaya (SUB). It's been a while since Solo (SOC) - Singapore route is closed due to low occupancy (one said it's usually only filled around 20%, which caused the closure that then wreaked havoc with my parents' trip a few months earlier), so I have almost no choice but to go back home via Surabaya. Two one way tickets were bought at US$150 roundtrip for full service, which I think is quite a good deal. It was possible that time to snag a below US$100 roundtrip for Solo to Singapore flight, but even such that cheap fare failed to allure people to take the flight.

Exam schedule
photo ES_edited


On the ground
On the day before, I did web check-in and got to pick my seat, which is 23C. Garuda didn't issue boarding pass online for this flight.

After a morning getaway to Raffles Place, I quickly headed back to my room in one of the campus' halls to do some packing before my departure. I left my campus at 4 pm by bus and public train (also known as MRT). That bus service has a pretty long waiting time at up to 15 minutes in addition to the extremely long commute (by Singapore standard since I'm in the far west and the airport in the far east, even some people mentioned that my campus is called a pulau or island of its own) of around 90 minutes, so leaving the campus at that time makes for a pretty tight connection.

My suitcase strapped to the bus pole. Definitely better than holding it for the 25 minutes stroll to the bus interchange.
photo 20151208_161848

Fortunately, I still managed to arrive at Changi Airport terminal 3 at almost 6, which was found to be just nice later on. I like T3 much more than T2 or T1 since both are a bit too crowded to my liking.

The FIDS at the airport, showing my flight at the upper left screen
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I went to the check-in counter, and having done my web check-in, I got 23C seat as I selected during web check-in in no time. The check-in counters were pretty quiet, which I appreciated. The check-in agent, though, wasn't quite nice at that time. When I asked for the load factor, he only said around 80%, without further details.

The quiet check-in counters.
photo 20151208_175515photo 20151208_183611

My boarding pass
photo BP_edited

Afterwards, I went back and asked for my seafood meal request at the check-in counter again, and the agent said that it's already put into the system. Only a few moments after that then I reread my boarding pass and found that SFML sign on it (why did I ask it in the first place?)

I guessed there's nothing like fried oyster (or as some people say orh luak) back in Indonesia, so I grabbed one before my flight at Kopitiam T3, to be finished by a glass of iced Milo. I found the fried oyster focused a bit too much on the eggs rather than the starch, which I disliked.

Fried oyster with iced Milo.
photo 20151208_182423

Having finished my dinner, I proceeded to the check-in floor again to see the famous Star Wars display. I actually had no interest in it, so I just took a look on what's the happening thing now. :p Details on the event: http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/entertainment/star-wars-at-changi-airport

The Star Wars plane with costume for photo taking. The photo taking session was yet to begin.
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By that time, it was already around 6.30 pm, so I went to the immigration. Immigration was swift and almost queue-free since I have a long term visit pass which allows me to use automated immigration clearance. This facility is available in (almost) all Singapore borders, yet in Indonesia only Soekarno Hatta airport (CGK) offers one.

I paid a visit to the the DFS wine and spirits 2-floors store. At the 2nd floor, they do have a bar managed by Raffles Hotel (the hotel where Singapore Sling was first created, see at http://www.raffles.com/singapore/dining/long-bar/) where passengers can get a free (totally free, no purchase required) cocktail from the menu provided. They got around 10 options, for which I took the whisky sour and Singapore Sling. The bartender said that the Singapore Sling was the most cumbersome since it consists of so many ingredients, which made me rethink of ordering it again especially if it's a free one! A word of caution, though: the bar only opens from afternoon, so for those who arrive or depart in the morning, …. If you have the time to go there, you should try its cocktail offerings.

The menu at the free bar.
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The whisky sour that I ordered.
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Having taken my drinks, I took my way straight to the gate at the far end of T3. A not so short walk indeed.

A view of T3
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Security at the gates A16 - A20 was swift it felt a bit unusual for 5 gates sharing common security facility, and I even had time to talk a bit with the security agent on how it was so swift at my time. He responded by saying that quite a few moments before I went in it was quite crowded. I then had a seat at the gate and met one of fellow Indonesians from my campus (seen from his T-shirt showing our campus' name). He said that he would sit in 26D, which was quite to the front as well. Since I sat on the front rows, I have the pleasure to board a bit later than those on the back rows. In the meanwhile, I caught up with emails as well as software update by using the free airport WiFi, which wasn't too bad.

GA855 boarding in process
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The quite quiet waiting room
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The trip
Aircraft tail number: PK-GME (Flight: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/PKGME/history/20151208/1135Z/WSSS/WARR; A/C details: http://www.airfleets.net/ficheapp/plane-b737ng-30157.htm)

Estimated time of departure: 19:35 SGT (GMT +8)
Actual time of departure: 19.48 SGT (GMT +8)

Estimated time of arrival: 21.00 WIB (GMT +7)
Actual time of arrival: 20.53 WIB (GMT +7)

Upon boarding, I found that the plane was a slightly old one, being still not fitted with the Sky Interior. Garuda planes with Boeing Sky Interior are marked with such beside the door.

The door
photo 20151208_191700

I asked for the paper edition of Wall Street Journal Asia (I only had the e-paper subscription instead of the paper ones due to the steep price difference), but it was unavailable on board. I soon settled into my seat, a WRONG one at 25C. At least no one else took 25C seat, which made me happy since 23B and 23A were both filled, yet 25B were empty, therefore slightly resembling Europe business class.

Service began with orange juice and paper towel.
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My seatmate was a middle-aged Indonesian man who as I remember said that he went to Singapore for health reason. I had a bit of talk with him before we were settled with our on board entertainment.

A glimpse of business class ahead. As I know, SQ and CI had angled lie flat seats on this route, which should make for better choices than GA and MI's recliner seats.
photo 20151208_192622

Taxi and take-off went on smoothly, then afterwards it's dinner time. Time to get the boarding pass ready!

As I sat on the wrong seat, the stewardess asked me if I was the one who got the 23C seat before serving my meal. It's served first before the rest, as usual for special meals.

Seafood meal, personally named.
photo SFML_edited

The main course looked pretty unappetizing with way too much tomato puree drenched on it and the potatoes that looked like it's slightly burned
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What's inside the puree? Baked fish meat.
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The food of the day consisted of:
- Main course (SFML): Baked fish fillet with sauteed vegetables and potatoes in tomato puree
- Main course (others): A choice of rice with fish fillet cooked with turmeric or noodle with chicken
- Dessert: Fruit salad and KitKat
- Drink on tray: Orange juice
- Drink service: Juices, soft drinks, red/white wine, milk, water

My seatmate asked for the same meal as mine (despite the look?), but was rejected by the stewardess saying that it was an order, and so he switched to the rice with fish. Somehow his main course looked better than mine, but the fish fillet amount on my meal seemed to be more than his.

For additional drink, I asked for a full can of Sprite with a glass of ice. Why bother for a glass when you can get a full can as well?

Legroom for this flight was acceptable at 32 (I am 5' 10"), and without any handbag I had a pretty good sleep on board since I could stretch my legs. As for the entertainment, I decided not to play too much with it and left it at one classical music album since its screens were a bit hard to press (which is not the case for GA's new planes).

Legroom photo
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Arrival at SUB
Landing at Juanda airport (SUB) terminal 2 was reasonably on time and immigration was not too long since I was one of the earlier to arrive at the counters, however it still took a few minutes of wait for the bag to come. Customs queue was a bit long since my bag came out not quite early and others without checked luggage had already started to proceed there. As I exited the customs, my parents had already waited at the public area and I returned to my hometown in no time. None of the Carl's Jr burger, though, since I already ate quite a few times throughout the day.
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Verdict

Garuda Indonesia

5.9/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew6.0
Entertainment6.0
meal/catering4.0

Singapore - SIN

7.6/10
Efficiency8.5
Access7.5
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.5

Surabaya - SUB

5.4/10
Efficiency4.0
Access5.5
Services6.0
Cleanliness6.0

Conclusion

With $150 for a roundtrip, there weren't too much I could ask. A decent terminal? Ticked. Seamless ground handling? Ticked. Acceptable on board service? Ticked. Reasonably comfortable seat and entertainment? Ticked.

Surely the drinks offering may be less extensive than some other airlines like Qatar which offered spirits and even 2 kinds of red wine, or maybe Air France with champagne in all classes, but for such a short hop in economy class the service offered was acceptable.

GA offered a pretty decent service for the price, but as usual, loyalty has its limits. Recently Garuda changed its fares quite wildly, from $150 roundtrip to $180 roundtrip with at least 2 persons flying and more than $200 roundtrip for one person flying, and at times charged more than $300 roundtrip for SIN-SUB-SIN (yet less for SUB-SIN-SUB?) I guess I would need to scout for other carriers (e.g. China Airlines on its fifth freedom route) if the fares did not go down when I needed a ticket. No consideration for miles as well: I got 0 for this trip, as usual for V/S classes.

All in all, the trip was generally an acceptable and fuss-free one, just the way I expected. However, there are some aspects that may be repaired on such as the main course setting and the AVOD screen, as well as the erratic ticket pricing changes.

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