Review of Garuda Indonesia flight Surabaya Singapore in Economy

Airline Garuda Indonesia
Flight GA854
Class Economy
Seat 44K
Aircraft Boeing 737-800
Flight time 02:15
Take-off 06 Jan 16, 07:35
Arrival at 06 Jan 16, 10:50
GA   #4 out of 113 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 135 reviews
Eric V P
By 1860
Published on 17th January 2016
This trip report will be my report on flying Garuda Indonesia economy class from Surabaya SUB to Singapore SIN, Garuda's sole short-haul international route from Surabaya SUB. For the trip report on the return flight from Singapore SIN to Surabaya SUB, please read it here.

Background and departure
As usual, no holiday feels short except when it almost ends. Since my holiday was going to come to an end soon, I am returning to Singapore to further pursue my study. Since one of my sisters would be going to go to Jakarta in a few days, I then took the door to door transport from my home to the airport.

For this flight, I requested for seafood meal again prior to departure. However, I did not do web check-in before, which therefore put my seat selection at the check-in counter officer's whim.

SFML request. Most special meal options are only available on international flights, but even on this rather short flight such options were available.
photo GA SUBSIN Req

I departed from Madiun at 11.30 pm since the flight was at the morning. Besides, it was done to prevent traffic jam from cancelling my trip. I took the front seat, which was quite acceptable for that 160 km stroll. The fare for the trip was only US$9 (Rp120000,00), which already included the US$1.5 (Rp20000,00) airport surcharge levied by the travel service provider.

Leaving Madiun.
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I had a supper stop at Jombang, which then I spent to buy Yakult (Japanese brand cultured milk drink) at the nearest minimarket. A packet of 5 bottles x 80 mL costed me US$0.6 (Rp8000,00) there compared to US$2.5 (S$3.50) in a supermarket in Singapore.

The trip in the end took merely 3 hours and 10 minutes (minus the 40 minutes supper stop), which was quite fast. The driver first dropped the other passengers who were going to fly from Surabaya SUB T1 before I was dropped at Surabaya SUB T2. The fast trip therefore resulted in me waiting for quite long at the airport, which I did not appreciate as I would prefer running on tight schedule to maximize my time home.

Departure at SUB
I was expecting a quiet airport, though instead I was welcomed by the hordes of people preparing to fly to Saudi Arabia for umrah.

The large number of people were already present at such an early time.
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This terminal has just recently got one of the more silly security procedure where one now need to undertake x-ray screening only to get to the public area shops compared to previously where security in Surabaya SUB T2 was only done after check-in. The queue seemed to look bad, though it moved pretty fast.

On my way to security before reaching the public area stores (unlike its T1 counterpart, there is no store on the curbside at Surabaya T2)
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Even more uniform bags and uniformed umrah participants.
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As it was still early in the morning, I then proceeded to the general Garuda check-in counters to inquire about seat assignment. I asked if it was possible to get the middle seat empty for the flight, and unfortunately it was not possible to do so, also considering the respectable load of the flight. However, she offered that 44K seat, one of the last rows in Garuda's 737-800 which was usually reserved. Since it was still very early, I could not check my luggage or retrieve my boarding pass, but still, that's what matter for that time.

I proceeded to Carl's Jr burger restaurant which I didn't visit on my Surabaya-bound flight. At that time, they offered free small fries for all ticket holder, which I took. There was also student discount as well a complimentary upsize promotion for Garuda ticket holder, but I didn't need the free-flow drinks (I still got my bottle of tea from the minimarket visit earlier), so I proceeded with the free small fries offer. I attempted to do some last-minute browsing, which thanks to the airport Wi-Fi's crappy login page made it impossible.

After spending a few moments there, it was time to proceed to the check-in counter to check my luggage and retrieve my boarding pass. This time, the agent asked if I am a student in Singapore, which I answered with a yes. On the previous SUB - SIN flight by Garuda on July 2015, the agent asked for my return ticket instead, for which I answered, "Students Pass", referring to one of the long term visit passes issued by Singapore's immigration agency. On both occasion I was let through without flashing my green pass.

Garuda's check-in counters for Singapore-bound flight, which pale in comparison to the proper counters for domestic flights. However, as expected on flights operated by Garuda the queue was short.
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Going one floor above the check-in counters, I encountered some new stores there, including Chatime.
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A view of check-in counters from above. Royal Brunei should be quite popular for Hong Kong-bound passengers with its one stop service as I saw packaged tour brochures for trips to Hong Kong using Royal Brunei.
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Second security screening and immigration were quite acceptable. The immigration officer warned me that my flight was still a bit long and I was advised not to get in and out of immigration. Security for domestic flights was separated from those for international flights. One main difference between both was that LAG (liquid, aerosol, and gel) rule was not enforced for domestic flights. In case you are going to travel within Indonesia, therefore, feel free to stay away from the expensive airport concession stores.

Queue to security.
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After passing through immigration, I had a look at the duty free offerings, which was paltry at best compared with Changi's DFS stores which sported a more respectable offering.

The wine and spirits part of the duty free store, which was closed for renovation. Instead, they temporarily relocated to a small store beside.
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Since Juanda was not the best way to have some window shopping or dining, I decided to do a bit of spotting.

China Airlines A330 (B-18317) flying to Taipei via Singapore (the Singapore-bound route is available as fifth freedom flight, which I got to try quite a while ago). It departs earlier from Surabaya and arrives at Surabaya again later than Garuda, making it suitable for day trip or shorter stays.
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Garuda A330 (PK-GPU) heading to Jakarta. The Surabaya - Jakarta shuttle is usually operated by 737-800s, so such view was slightly unusual.
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Royal Brunei A320 (V8-RBU) heading to Bandar Seri Begawan.
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Cathay Pacific A330-300 (B-HLN) returning home.
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The Gapura Angkasa agents were preparing for the departure. On a side note, Juanda T2 should have a storage area to hide all those airline-specific signs.
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The boarding commenced soon afterwards. Being in the last few rows, I quickly got my boarding pass scanned and I was good to go.

Went down to the tarmac to take a bus to the gate.
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On board
Flight: GA854
Plane: PK-GME (A/C details: http://www.airfleets.net/ficheapp/plane-b737ng-30157.htm)
STD/ATD: 07:35/ 07.44
STA/ATA: 10:50/10.44
Load factor: 25% C (3/12), 88% Y (127/144)
Seat type: Standard economy class
Details: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/PKGNJ/history/20160106/0043Z/WARR/WSSS

One of the benefits of taking bus is the ability to board early when standing near the correct door, and in the end I got the chance to board first.

The plane was apparently used for domestic route the day before. Finally, I had the chance to fly on one of the newer 737-800s rather than the older one on my trip back.
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As usual, I checked for the usual Wall Street Journal Asia, but that newspaper was unavailable again. While I had the e-paper version myself (the notification was delivered at 4 am to my email), but since even the airport Wi-Fi was crappy, I preferred to grab the paper version whenever available.

(Almost) empty cabin, with only me and the whole crew inside.
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Luggage handlers ensuring all gets loaded properly, with no baggage throwing sighted.
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I was in 44K. The IFE interface was nicer than the older B737-800s not fitted with Boeing Sky Interior, as well as more touch-responsive.
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A paper towel and a small cup of orange juice were offered as pre-departure beverage.
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The weather in SUB looked a bit nasty.
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The flight took off on time. Despite the nasty-looking weather, the take-off and climb wasn't bumpy even while I was sitting at one of the last rows.

15 minutes after takeoff, the sky cleared.
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After takeoff, as usual on Garuda's international flights a full breakfast service was served.

Seafood meal, which was still served the earliest.
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The meal didn't look that bad, especially considering there was not too much sauce as though the catering messed up with the meal.
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Compared the meal with the one I received for the SIN - SUB flight below, the current meal was better.
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The vermicelli could be more well-seasoned and the fish sightly soggy. For this breakfast set meal, the yogurt and fruit cuts added to the breakfast nuance, probably even more so had I toke the omelette option. For the additional round of drinks, I asked for white wine, but was denied due to the flight only offering a breakfast service. Instead, I opted for a glass of milk.

The food of the day consisted of:
- Bread: Bread roll served with butter
- Main course (SFML): Deep fried fish meat chunks and seared prawns served with sauteed baby pak choi in oyster sauce and vermicelli
- Main course (others): A choice of nasi uduk or omelette
- Dessert: Fruit cuts and yogurt
- Drink on tray: N/A (but never mind for they still had drink service)
- Drink service: Juices, soft drinks, milk, water

Since I got the middle seat empty and the legroom was decent, I could sleep with ease while accompanied by Max Richter's recomposition of the Four Seasons, only available on Garuda's 737-800 featurin Boeing Sky Interior.

Legroom was quite decent, and the IFE box was below 43J seat instead of 43K, which helped.
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After I caught a few moments of nap after the journey and long waiting time, the plane started its descent. The 44H seat was filled by one of the stewards during landing, so I talked a bit with him. He mentioned that wines as well as WSJ will be loaded from Singapore, and that his rotation for the day would be SUB - SIN - DPS - LOP - DPS, all with the same plane. I expected the SIN - DPS trip to be slightly longer than SUB - SIN, but providing services on the DPS - LOP - DPS route would be challenging (if there is even any) since those two islands are a quite short hop away at less than 200 km. Link to the flight: http://flightaware.com/live/flight/PKGNJ/history/20160106/0750Z/WADD/WADL

Random: the opening and latches of the luggage bin. It got 2 latches as opposed to one, which was presumably for sake of safety.
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Arrival at SIN
I ended this flight only to be met by additional screening at Changi. It was the first time I ever encountered that additional screening, so I was quite surprised.

Good bye, PK-GNJ.
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Welcome to Singapore - please get ready for 3rd security check.
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After I cleared the security, I went to the free bar (Long Bar by Raffles) again only to find out that it would open later in the afternoon. It was not a quick detour from the store to the arrival immigration since it's near to the centre of T3. The gate, which was at the far south end of T3, didn't help either.

A long way to the Long Bar.
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Immigration was quite fast, thanks to me being able to use the automated clearance. The automate immigration gates, however, can still be crowded on Woodlands checkpoint (the 1st land border to Johor state of Malaysia).

Immigration hall at T3 from above, featuring sparsely used autogates.
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When I arrived at the luggage claim area, my bag together with some others were already put down from the carousel and after passing the customs, I went straight to Chinatown for kway teow, then back to campus for bag drop, and back to downtown again to meet one of my high school friends visiting Singapore.
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Verdict

Garuda Indonesia

7.1/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment7.0
Meal/catering6.0

Surabaya - SUB

4.6/10
Efficiency5.0
Access4.0
Services3.0
Cleanliness6.5

Singapore - SIN

7.8/10
Efficiency8.0
Access7.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

This SUB - SIN trip, despite being only 2 hours long, had shown that even US$75 one way could go a quite long way. Short queues? Ticked. Newer aircraft? Ticked. An acceptable breakfast and sufficient entertainment? Ticked. Hospitable service? Ticked. The quiet T3 at Changi? Ticked.

On the other hand, Juanda T2 airport with among the highest passenger service charge in Indonesia at US$15 for international flights (included in ticket price) failed to provide enough service for passengers arriving early. Also, it would be better to load the Wall Street Journal Asia and wines from Surabaya SUB when the logistic allows as the flight would otherwise provide a somehow limited service. In terms of entertainment, the ability to use it from gate to gate will be appreciated as well since typical on Garuda's flights it was disabled on final descent and landing.

Will I take this route again? Very likely, since it's one of the two full service carriers offering reasonable timing for flights to Singapore (with the other being China Airlines; Singapore has an extremely early departure time out of SIN and most of the time has unreasonable fares for single flyers or one way bookings).

Informations on the route Surabaya (SUB) Singapore (SIN)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 3 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Surabaya (SUB) → Singapore (SIN).


Useful

The airline with the best average grade is China Airlines with 8.7/10.

The average flight time is 2 hours and 8 minutes.

 

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