Report #4: KL836 - How many lounges can I visit in DPS?
This trip report will be my report on flying KLM business class on the way back from Denpasar DPS to Singapore SIN, a short-haul international flight within SE Asia, on board their Boeing 777-300ER.
For my earlier report on the flight from Singapore, read here.
After the week-long holiday with my family, I needed to return to Singapore again. This trip was quite interesting since I had the chance to try: - DPS' international terminal (I once departed from it when its current arrival area was turned to domestic departure while waiting for the domestic terminal major renovation to complete, and to say the least it was extremely ill-suited, so I hoped this would be a different story), - GA's international business class lounge (accessible with my KL business class ticket even though I'm not a SkyTeam elite member, more details later), and - dnata lounge as an arrivals lounge (surprising that they still let me in even as I was not originating from Singapore).
3 lounge visits, 2 Delft Blues, and fully lie-flat seats (which makes it in my list of top 3 business class seats for Singapore - Indonesia route) for only US$380 return? Count me in!
Last day at Bali and check-in at DPS
For some reasons, my parents and sisters' Lion Air flight was rescheduled forward by 3 hours, so they opted to leave the hotel at around 9 AM. I then got the chance to meet with my senior (fellow Indonesians at my university who had a Balinese parent) from 10 AM to 11.30 AM and talked a bit about internship, study, as well as aviation.
After meeting him, I decided to have Balinese ayam betutu (spicy Balinese style chicken with spicy sauce) at Ayam Betutu Khas Gilimanuk. While it has a stall at domestic terminal public area (sheltered area between arrival and arrival pickup), I opted for the branch at the Kuta central parking area. If you don't think you can withstand spicy food (and I mean spicy by Indonesian standard), I would recommend you against eating it.
As I could not fully enjoy the meal (the ayam betutu kuah option alone was already quite spicy, let alone the even more spicy option), I went to the supermarket nearby and bought some drink and Indomie's Mie Goreng Keriting which was a rare sight in Singapore (although the normal Mie Goreng is quite a popular sight). I then turned to the nearby babi guling (roasted suckling pig) restaurant nearby, and since I needed some rest before my flight, I opted to order it for takeaway. At Rp45.000,00 (US$3.4), it is one of the better one I have tried, but my preferred roasted suckling pig would be the ones in Cebu, Philippines (a must-try if you are going there!)
After I took rest for a while, thanks to the 5 PM free late check-out allowance (quite long considering I only hold a mid-tier membership on that hotel chain), I went to a nearby minimarket to buy postcards and used a ride-hailing app to take a ride to the airport. Kuta/Legian area was very crowded, especially on late afternoons and evenings.
It took me 40 minutes to go to the airport, even though the trip was only 10 km. The airport at first sight didn't look that shabby, but just before you reached the parking gantry at the airport entrance you can see that the international terminal main building (excluding the gates) looks massive. Add that with the height of the airport (my driver said that only very few buildings can be made above a certain height in Bali due to local customs regulation), and you can see it is one of the larger buildings in Bali.
The drop-off area didn't look too shabby (but still somehow lacked the elegance of Changi T3 or the traditional feel of rural Bali, instead reminding me of the blander Manila MNL T3).
Indonesia's most popular alcoholic drink brand: Bintang (quite famous for its beer even among tourists visiting Indonesia, but somehow nowhere to be seen overseas).
Some more views from the public area, 2nd floor:
Check-in was as usual in Indonesia started with having the bags screened and the checked baggage affixed with the quintessential security checked sticker. Since the security officer mentioned that check-in for KL would only start 3 hours before departure, I opted to take a look around the check-in area. Since row C was closed and KL used row B for its check-in counters, I took a look at nearby counter D.
Check-in took me around 5 minutes to wait for its final preparation and another 5 minutes for the waiting and actually checking in, which was longer than expected. A small queue had formed even before the counters were opened.
One thing that caught me during check-in was the upgrade offer stuck on each check-in desk, including at the 3 Sky Priority desks (but only 2 opened by the time I checked in). When I asked the officer about the upgrade price from economy to business out of curiosity, he mentioned that the price of the day was €80 (US$85), a special price from the usual price of €100 (US$105). For this flight booking business class is still cheaper than booking economy class with paid upgrade, but US$85 seemed quite reasonable even given its hard product alone. Quite an aggressive promotion, to say the least, although he also said that economy was going to be full and business close to full, so I could not see the point of the upgrade promotion except during off-peak times.
My boarding pass. Notice that there was no notice of boarding closed 20 minutes before departure even as I saw them bringing the stickers.
Garuda Indonesia's premium check-in area. I also saw the same setting on Surabaya SUB T2 and DPS temporary domestic terminal (which as I mentioned earlier was on the current international terminal, arrival level) while on Jakarta CGK it was slightly more elaborate since it is their base.
As there was no queue, second security screening and immigration was swift, with immigration completed in less than 1 minute. It may be a perk of arriving early, but I guess now < 1 minute airport immigration is becoming quite normal for me (now possible at 3 airports: SIN, CGK, and DPS). Photo of immigration counters from behind (the autogates were not visible since it was at the far end):
DPS transit area
Afterwards, I went to the duty-free shop. This is where I started to hate DPS' international departure layout: it basically made you went in a zigzag from the immigration, duty free store, luxury goods store, some slightly more reasonably priced stores, and finally to the gates. Two things I can say of the duty-free offerings at DPS: - Interested on buying some local wines? Buy it at landside, where it's cheaper than duty-free (US$17 at duty free, US$13.5 on landside). - Does your destination airport have duty-free stores on arrival? If that's the case, you may want to consider skipping the duty-free offerings here since they are a bit on the more expensive side (but do your price research beforehand).
Even more stores and the two out of three lounges at DPS international departure
I then went upstairs and instead of choosing Premier Lounge, I went to Garuda Indonesia's international business class lounge.
Lounge test #1: Garuda Indonesia international business class lounge
Upon giving my boarding pass, the lounge reception staff said she would need to check for a while since I was not on a Garuda Indonesia flight, but afterwards my passport was stamped with Garuda lounge stamp (which later became a bit of an issue) and was let in. I think the lounge should be accessible to other SkyTeam business class other passengers as well (even without elite status as I didn't have any at this moment, but an offer for it would always be welcome), but it is clear: KL business class passengers from DPS have the option to access either Premier Lounge or GA's international business class lounge.
I went to the business class part of the lounge since the first class part was empty that time.
The lounge features seats you would usually find on a business class lounge, which was comfortable but only features Indonesian 2-pin plugs. However, I requested to borrow an adapter for my laptop charger at the reception and was provided with one. I appreciate that the furniture on the lounge matched quite well and felt quite acceptable.
Further inside, there are some more seating space available as well for larger groups as well as some foot massage machines (I only took photo of one of them).
A small self-serve buffet area was available, featuring some foods and drinks (some more space available on the side and behind).
Indonesian food available for that day was Balinese mixed rice. I wondered if something else was expected to fill the empty half part of the tray with chicken, but with what was available it was a paltry offering especially with yet another dry chicken. However, the chili sauce offering suited to my taste I went back for some extra servings and the banana leaf wrapping was a nice touch.
Other hot meal offerings were pretty standard, and as usual drier than expected except for the stew and dim sum.
Its cold meal offerings were paltry so I didn't bother trying, but in Indonesia where some people think they haven't eat when they haven't consumed rice, that was slightly more justifiable. Behind the cloth are some muffins, although I wasn't interested on it so that remained untouched.
Drinks were offered with wine welcomed since it's quite rare in Indonesia, although I think I would need to ask the staff should I ever wanted to drink the beer since it was not visible. Too bad I didn't take the photo of the juice offerings, but there were only orange or apple juice in standard dispenser. I don't think I like the wines that much, although at least it was a nice try from Garuda Indonesia.
After I had a small meal and went around the lounge, I decided to have a look at Premier Lounge which was the default lounge for KL's business class passengers. But first, let's see what airlines were using each lounge:
At first, I asked with the T/G lounge staff about the possibility of me accessing the lounge, which he responded by redirecting me to the Premier Lounge beside. When I tried to enter Premier Lounge (the common international business/first class lounge), however, the lounge reception staff refused me entry. Here is the reason why:
When I entered GA's lounge, the lounge staff stamped my boarding pass. Since the lounge reception staff at Premier Lounge knew I had accessed GA's lounge before, she said that I could only access one lounge per flight (presumably by virtue of my boarding pass). That wasn't a good news for me since I was hoping to compare Premier Lounge with Garuda Indonesia international business class lounge. Since I still had around 1 1/2 hours, I decided to return to Garuda Indonesia's lounge and started working again. Lesson learned: Find out what is the best lounge you expect to be able to visit if you expect to have the option to access several different lounges on that airport.
I liked how the main lounge seats were separated by lamps, while at the same time still leaving enough space for my slightly larger than average laptop. On a side note, am I the only one thinking A320neo looks beautiful?
Around 30 minutes before boarding, I paid a visit to the shower facility inside the lounge after asking for the amenity kit (there was a notice at the shower room requesting us to ask the staff for the shower amenity kit). Their shower amenity kit consisted of towel, shampoo, and liquid soap put on a woven wood tray. While the shampoo and liquid soap were from a common household brand, they are still quite a big improvement from the ones usually put on dispensers, and the manner the kit was given was a plus point as well.
The toilet smelled pleasant and was quite clean. It has one shower room with closet and washing basin and two rooms with closet and washing basin, which although it may be a bit on the smaller side, is acceptable given the lounge size and its reasonably good maintenance.
The shower itself, however, was downright underwhelming. Water flow and hot water consistency can definitely be improved, but having nowhere to put the shampoo and soap on the shower? That was quite a big issue, and as I hate flooding the shower area I had no choice but to put them on the shower railing - still worked but didn't feel proper for an international business class lounge.
As boarding time was quite near, I decided to go from the lounge where the reception staff said goodbye and wished me a pleasant flight. Last photo of the lounge from outside - looking forward to visiting it again soon.
Lounge test verdict and departure
The lounge was not too conducive for working, especially due to some noise from the retail area downstairs and that the slow internet access (download 800 kbps, upload 1 Mbps), but the privacy, lighting, and ample working space quite helped. I can say that this is the exact opposite of dnata lounge: quiet and offers universal plug but not too private, has a relatively smaller table, and slightly too dim.
Throughout my stay at the lounge, while the lounge itself was reasonable, what impressed me the most was the service provided by the staffs at the lounge. From the staff politely asking i to have my plates cleared, the warm staffs even to the one who gave me the shower amenity kit, to the goodbye given by the staff when I left the lounge for departure (a nice touch since it wasn't found on dnata lounge), I could say that Garuda Indonesia really lives up to the 5 stars rating with the experience on the ground matching with what I received on my previous flights with them. While my ratings are usually slightly lower than average, I can't help myself but to give them a 9 for the service (the service was not equivalent to Garuda first class so I couldn't give them a 10 but I couldn't ask for much since I didn't even fly with Garuda so I considered myself lucky).
The airport seem to be quite crowded on those times, especially with 5 flights departing within 30 minutes.
The flight today would be by PH-BVN "Tijuca National Park" featuring new normal KL livery (not KLM Asia as on previous flight, but I could not take a better photo due to my position and the dark tint of the window).
As boarding time was quite near, a crowd had already formed at the gate.
Waiting area seemed to be quite packed, with quite a lot of Europeans going back and some passengers affected by Tigerair's 3 hours delay on TR2289. However, the waiting area became less crowded as TR2289 was moved to gate 9 (KL836 itself was also moved to gate 4 from gate 2).
There was at first an announcement of 10 minutes delay on boarding time, followed by another 5 minutes. 2 announcements for what's basically a 15 minutes delay that still ended up with on time arrival? Better than the delay I experienced at SIN earlier, in terms of the communication and the duration of the delay. However, the boarding queue had become a quite large one, which meant boarding process was basically random for those in economy class instead of group by group as on SIN.
Boarding soon started and I took another shot of the plane. Why is it that I could not see the last 2 characters of the aircraft registration above the wheels?
Since I did not take photos of some stuffs on this trip, I may put some photos of the previous trip, which are marked as such.
Upon arriving, I was welcomed by one of the flight attendants. Upon knowing I was about to take a photo of the seat, the flight attendant asked if I would like to have my photo taken on the seat, although as I was feeling a bit shy I refused it. Photo of the 3C seat I would settle for the flight and its seat control:
Foot cubby was as narrow as the one on window seat - since the foot cubby was relatively small regardless of aisle or window seat, I may as well chose window seat the next time (photo from previous flight)
The plugs were located on the left of the seat back, which was not too obtrusive but at the same time may be slightly difficult to reach. To my dismay, the AC adapter was not turned on the whole flight.
Noise-cancelling headphone was already put nearby the plugs when I arrived. While it was not too bad in reducing the noise, the ear cups were quite uncomfortable.
Welcome drinks were served. I chose the champagne again (which was still Nicolas Feuillatte again), which was drinkable but not stellar. Other options include orange juice and being a Dutch airline, Heineken.
Jetstar 787 (VH-VKH, details here) was preparing to fly back to Sydney.
When I had a look at the side of the pillow, I found this feather, which was said as duck feather on the notice beside the pillow. Just like the previous flight, the pillow cover was again all white, unlike what they advertised on their dedicated WBC website.
Had only I selected a window seat - taking photos from aisle seat was proven to be quite challenging.
View of the WBC seat from front and side, which didn't look too cramped.
Take-off was reasonably smooth, and afterwards hot towel and menu was distributed. While the food and some of the wine offerings were different, the other drinks were the same. How did it fare compared with other airlines on the same route? - GA: The main course choices at KL seemed to be on the safer side (especially the Indonesian choice despite its collaboration with a celebrity chef) than Garuda Indonesia and the champagne offering at KL was not as good as what Garuda Indonesia offers, although the better appetizer and dessert made it up. -SQ: On a report by someone taking the route, there seemed to be no Indonesian option available while KL seem to always have one out of its two options. Singapore's appetizer and dessert, while doesn't look Indonesian, may be more well-accepted since they seem to be rather universally appealing.
Being an European airline also helps with its extensive beverage menu, which although it was not to the point of making a separate beverages menu was just enough for the flight duration (but I can't say the same had I take the longer SIN - Amsterdam AMS flight).
Cocktail and champagne
White and red wine options
Non-alcoholic drink options. Note the day of flight and flight route displayed at the upper right corner.
About Marcel Wanders, the designer appointed by KL for its current designs for meal service.
Tablecloth was set up, again with the standard design by Marcel Wanders. As seen on the first image, however, the outer part of the table gave slightly which made it quite uncomfortable for working and slightly disturbing for eating (since meals on this flight were offered as a one-tray service).
Even more of the design can be seen in its meal cart, although the design was slightly too big to my liking.
I opted for the beef, and after my meal was put on tray the flight attendant did what was basically an olive oil service - she put some olive oil into the small plate meant for the bread. A nice touch, though I seemed confused at first on its purpose. The meal was again acceptable, although quite some items on the meal somehow reminded me of another foods found on the land. For starter, the cod pepes didn't seem like the pepes I would usually consume back in Indonesia and instead went off more like fish with yellow rub sauce and was rather dry, so the pickled vegetable helped quite a bit. The edible flower found with the pickled vegetable was reminiscent of the flower usually grated on rojak found in Singapore with its distinctive taste. Bread was on the drier side, which made it only borderline palatable. The beef on the main meal I chose was, fortunately, quite tender and flavorful although the thick stew made it feel creamy, something I would not usually associate with Indonesian food, while the vegetable and garlic rice looked quite acceptable. I paired the meal with the Spanish red wine which was slightly spicy with hints of berries, which I found not too suitable as a pairing for the Indonesian meal choice. Dessert was quite good with its softness and delicious taste, the kaya and coconut slightly resembled the kaya jam found on Singapore's breakfast set and the aftertaste from the pandan leaf reminded me of the taste of traditional sweet snacks usually sold on markets in Indonesia. On overall, an acceptable business class meal.
When the meal was collected, the flight attendant offered the third round of beverages (after the welcome drink and during meal), where I requested the dessert wine again (the same as on the previous flight). It didn't disappoint me as it suited my preferences quite well but would be better if it was paired with a second serving of the dessert or praline which was not served on this flight. Given the choice between olive oil or praline service, however, I would choose the praline service again hands down.
As it was a night flight, some fellow passengers were noticeably quite tired.
During my visit to the toilet, I noticed that besides the Zenology products, the toilet was mostly the same as what I would find in economy class.
I then continued to work for a while when a flight attendant armed with a list of passengers ending the journey at SIN went around and offered me some Delft Blue - they seemed to be quite strict as when I asked later on they didn't seem to have any spare Delft Blue. I chose the Delft Blue number 15, which looked quite nice.
Soon we landed on time at Singapore and I bid farewell to the crew. Afterwards, I took a last photo of the plane as I found it difficult to take one on DPS.
Bonus lounge test: dnata lounge
From the gate, I walked along the pier to the main retail area, but this time we arrived at gate D34 which was slightly farther than D44 it used on the previous flight.
In SIN arriving and departing passengers are not segregated into different floors, so I decided to see if dnata lounge would let me in as an arriving passenger. Another reason I would like to visit the lounge was the fuss-free wireless internet access (unlike the one provided by the airport with its one-time password) and that my phone had run out of battery. The lounge reception scanned my boarding pass twice and I was afterwards let in. Lesson learned: Arriving at SIN? Try checking with the lounge used by your airline if you can come in. Photo of the front part of the lounge from previous flight.
The lounge was rather acceptable as an arrival lounge, but I couldn't say so for a departure lounge as what I experienced on the previous flight. During both visits, I found the lounge to be quite quiet, which made it suitable to take a brief rest.
Seating with smaller side table compared with Garuda Indonesia international business class lounge at DPS. First two images are the seating found at dnata lounge, while the next two are those at Garuda Indonesia international business class lounge.
Dining options were the same as the one on my previous visit, minus the chicken rice. Here are how the foods look like:
Since apparently the lounge was trying to be efficient, non-alcoholic beverage and beer options were mostly limited to canned drinks and drinks from Coca Cola group dispenser, although coffee machine was also available. However, the alcoholic beverages options here were quite a step up from what was offered at DPS, possibly due to the more diverse client base.
Arrival at SIN and post-arrival trip
After spending around 30 minutes in the lounge, I went to the arrival area. Immigration was not that crowded, as expected at SIN. I went to the immigration and was cleared in less than 1 minute again, thanks to my long term visit pass. SIN does not seem to offer priority immigration counters since its common counters are already reasonably efficient (probably they figured that less time spent at immigration means larger retail spending, and they also have 2 decent-sized duty-free stores at luggage claim area).
When I arrived at the baggage claim area, I noticed that my bag was among the last ones to be taken. Another thing I saw was that some luggage belt numbers have been renewed, which features bigger, brightly lit numbers. Its glossy finish, however, made it look rather cheap and may be quite prone to dirt and scratches. Guess which one is my bag.
I then visited the duty free store near the baggage claim for a while, which was reasonably priced compared to the one at DPS, and left the arrival area. Just like at T3, the pick-up area is now separated from the taxi bays, but since it was quite new I even saw some contractors still painting it. The pick-up area is admittedly quite narrow, but would be a nice way for the airport to reduce congestion and at the same time promote its taxi and ground transport services. I went back by a car booked using a ride-hailing app where it offered a rather steep promotion of S$10 from the airport to anywhere in Singapore using its carsharing offering. Here is how the new T1 pickup area looks like:
Anyone interested to make their own priority tag? :p On the upper left part of the background is the security check sticker affixed at DPS.
Garuda Indonesia International Lounge
Denpasar - DPS
Singapore - SIN
The return flight was quite much better than the departure flight, with access to Garuda Indonesia's lounge on departure and dnata lounge on arrival, slightly less cranky cabin crew, and more flavorful meals. On overall, the flight once again proved its good value for money with lie-flat seats, acceptable dining options, and lounge access. Garuda Indonesia made an acceptable lounge at DPS and while using it means I could not access Premier Lounge, I still don't regret my decision to enter it. DPS, on the other hand, didn't manage to keep up to my expectation with its rather bland design, arduous international departure layout, and gate changes.
Had I booked the economy class, would I part with US$85 to upgrade to business class (one-way) given the experience I had? I would say it's still a difficult decision (must be something to do with student budget), but the overall experience seem to be quite worth the premium.
Some thing done well for the trip: + Reasonable price + Lack of immigration queue at DPS + Acceptable lounge at DPS, especially the staffs' hospitality and wine offering (since it's in Indonesia) + Terrific hard product (considering the flight length and its competition) + Reasonable cabin crew + Consistent design found on items for dining + Acceptable on board meal taste from DPS catering + Acceptable wine and drinks offering, including drinkable champagne + Reasonably good entertainment + Delft Blue even on short flight + Access to dnata lounge on arrival + Reasonably efficient immigration at SIN
Things that can be improved: - DPS international terminal layout - Check-in counter opening times - DPS international departure layout - Meals offering at Garuda Indonesia lounge at DPS - Minor noise at Garuda Indonesia lounge at DPS - Shower facility at Garuda Indonesia lounge at DPS - Ability to access multiple business class lounges at DPS - Overly tinted glass window at DPS - Foot cubby size - Crews can be slightly more personable (but it's European airline and it's not a long flight, so ....) - On board meal choices - Amenity kit provision (though I've asked KL about it and they said it's provided only during the long-haul segment) - Meals offering at dnata lounge at SIN - Lounge seating at dnata lounge at SIN - New pick-up area at SIN T1
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