Review of Garuda Indonesia flight Surabaya Singapore in Business

Airline Garuda Indonesia
Flight GA854
Class Business
Seat 8A
Flight time 02:10
Take-off 17 Feb 18, 07:40
Arrival at 17 Feb 18, 10:50
GA   #12 out of 125 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 186 reviews
Eric V P
By GOLD 1386
Published on 19th February 2018
Report #25: GA854 - Business class by luck

This will be my report on flying Garuda Indonesia business class from Surabaya to Singapore, a short haul international flight within SE Asia. Viewer advisory: this will be a quite long report, especially due to the lounges test (i.e. lounge hopping in SUB terminal 2).

Background


While pushing my case for full-service carrier was futile on the earlier trip, at least I had the chance to revisit the same flight as on my 2nd flight report: GA854 to Singapore. It had been my preferred option throughout 2015, hence the classic shuttle (in 2016 and 2017 my trips were pretty different).

Instead of returning to Singapore on Monday, I decided to return on Sunday with around Rp100.000 (US$7.5) extra citing final year project - while the other reason was for me to try my luck on Garuda's BidUpgrade, its implementation of Plusgrade's upgrade auction which has recently been expanded to the V subclass (one of their lower tier classes but not S (i.e. among the lowest) which I would get had I opted to fly on Monday - previously the bidding system was limited to N subclass or above). I don't hold any elite FFP membership, which means that the upgrade when cleared should give more incremental benefits than for elite members.

For this flight, the bid amount was set to be between Rp912.000 (US$69) to Rp1.876.000 (US$140). It's steep given how they only offer recliner seats but as there were very few chances to review their business class partially on my parents' dime (I still couldn't stomach the full fare) I opted to bid somewhere in the middle at Rp1.400.925 (US$105).
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As my luck would have it and after anxiously waiting (instead of within 48 hours as promised the email came 32 hours before departure) my bid was accepted. That would bring the total ticket price to around Rp2.900.000 (US$217.5), which while rather expensive to my taste would be generally considered affordable given:
- I only paid the bid amount by my stipend (the economy class ticket was expensed), and
- The normal fare would run at Rp5.000.000 (US$375) one-way or Rp9.000.000 (US$675) roundtrip (CI offered their business class at Rp6.000.000 (US$450) roundtrip, but they're known to price tickets quite differently for one-way trip so it ended up being like GA again).
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The other 2 upgraded passengers told me that they bid between Rp1.200.000 (US$90) and Rp1.300.000 (US$97.5), so while I evidently overpaid it's still quite reasonable (but next time if I ever partake in such bid I would bid like them or even less).

Trip to SUB and check-in


Thanks to the expressway, me and my parents managed to arrive to Surabaya in 3 1/2 hours including lunch time.
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We stayed at Ciputra World Hotel and got upgraded 2 steps from the lowest room available to the highest deluxe room available (they have 3 types of deluxe room) because we needed twin beds to accommodate 3 people even though we had booked by OTA.
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I then took the carpooling service to the airport so my parents could enjoy the hotel room longer, which costed me only Rp44.000 (US$3.3) for the 20 km trip.
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After around 40 minutes I reached the airport.
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The departure area was surprisingly quite empty.
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There was a cursory security check (without metal detector) to go to the public area, which took me just above 1 minute.
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At this time there were few stores open.
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I then proceeded to the ticket check.
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The counters for the flight had yet to open (the general counters were known to reject people flying internationally from checking in there, at least in economy).
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Instead, I proceeded to the business class check-in, which took me 2 minutes. The staff asked whether I got upgraded, and as I answered yes she asked me to go to the ticketing counter to, "look for the associate and tell that I changed from economy to business". I also asked about the load, to which she said it was 8 in business and 132 in economy.
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I went to the ticketing counter, where some people asked about same-day tickets to Jakarta. Since it was just the end of Chinese new year long weekend, the staff told everybody that only night flights would have the economy while the rest only have business class - either that, or they could standby. Due to the long queue, a staff went out and asked what did I need, to which I told her of the class change and passed my passport.
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It took me 5 minutes to get my upgrade EMD issued.
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After I got my EMD, I returned to the check-in counter, passed my EMD and passport, and then did the check-in. She asked for my return ticket, to which I answered for my intent to stay there and passed my student visa card. I also asked:
- Whether I can get the 8A seat (yes; since based on the current load the 8A seat had high chance of having empty adjacent seat), and
- Whether I can get to the domestic lounge (yes - she provided me with two lounge passes)
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Luggage tags - I got the priority-business.
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I then received my boarding pass, printed in their standard stock paper.
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Since I also asked whether I could get into the domestic lounge, I also got two lounge passes (I wonder why is it 2 instead of 1).
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The area above the check-in area had been slightly reconfigured and all shops were on the right side.
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Boarding pass check was now done using turnstiles. Since I scanned my international boarding pass, I got rejected on the domestic turnstiles so after talking to the staff I went through the side door.
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Security was queue-free and I was through in 1 minute.
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SUB domestic transit area and lounge test #1: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Lounge


The domestic transit area feature several stores.
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The waiting room, with most people waiting for their Jakarta-bound flight.
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The lounge's exterior felt a lot like the international lounge in DPS which I had reviewed before. The reception initially refused me entry as I wasn't bound for a domestic flight (why can't I access GA's lounge when I have a GA ticket?), but after I passed one of my lounge passes he said that he could make an exception, wrote my details on the lounge pass, and let me in.
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Near the reception hot face towels were available, though no one bothered to use it even with the clean (bersih in Indonesian) remark. The towel itself was a generic one, but still a nice touch.
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Newspapers and magazines were available, but all were in Indonesian (note the lack of The Jakarta Post, an Indonesian newspaper in English).
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There were several kinds of seating, and I appreciated the consistency of the design. There were not that many power plugs, but the sofa with mini table has one for each person so those who need one can just proceed there.


Just like their lounge in DPS, feet massaging machines were there and have semi-private partition.
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Business centre is located behind the dining area, which feature iMac computers and a printer.
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Instead of mini-FIDS, they just used the display like those at the gates.
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The hot meal options may not look good, but is very Indonesian - always a good thing when you went home for Indonesian foods. This is more on a personal level, but the highlights for me were the tempeh and the chicken satay.


In Indonesia we've got a lot of chili sauces, so it's sad to see the packaged ones even though the legitimate ones were still available near the chicken porridge's condiments.
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The hot meals when plated. The plates and glasses were quickly cleared, which was appreciated.
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Instead of soup, chicken porridge with condiments was offered. It doesn't look nice (especially the soup/seasoning), but still pretty decent.


Western-styled meal choices consisted of breads and cereal.
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Drinks were all non-alcoholic, as expected on a domestic lounge, but they also have a coffee machine which was unmanned.


The lavatories were outside the lounge proper.
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Shower was available, but only on request (I couldn't see the shower room either).
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The lavatory itself was very basic.
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After the lavatory visit I exited the lounge to go to the international departure area.

Boarding had started for the flight bound to CGK.
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SUB international transit area and lounge test #2: Concordia Premier Lounge


I then proceeded to the international departure
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Security was also queue-free, so there was no Sky Priority benefit needed (the story may differ earlier; the morning peak had already passed).
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Immigration was queue-free and I was let through in less than 1 minute. I also asked:
- Whether the early morning peak had passed (yes),
- When will they get automated immigration gates (soon, pending approval (from where?))
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There were barely any stores.
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Even the duty-free store's business had been very slow.
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I proceeded to the lounge.
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So much ad?
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It is a Priority Pass lounge, and also shared among all carriers flying internationally.
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I passed my boarding pass and passport to the lounge reception, who then took a photo of my boarding pass and let me in.
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Business centre consisted of only 1 PC in an exposed area.
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A smoking room was available.
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The lounge is a very compact and monotonous one with only 2 types of seats (normal chairs and high chairs by the coffee machine)
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Their hot dishes are very basic, and even worse than that of GA's domestic lounge. Not photographed is the sauteed vegetable and chicken cooked with margarine.
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Is it steamed or stewed?
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Live station offer waffles and omelettes.
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Meal test round 1. The meal was mediocre at best, and worse than those at GA's domestic lounge. My plates were not cleared until I asked the lounge staff to clear it for me, all the same while they were talking to each other.
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Chicken porridge was offered, but strangely enough comes with bland vegetable soup.
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Chicken noodle was also provided with plated noodle and chicken chunks, but the soup was very oily and had fried garlic sprinkled too liberally.
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You know you're in Indonesia when you have crackers at the airport lounge, and I don't mean the crackers (biscuit).
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Bread was more limited as well, with the butter even put openly.
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Cereal were of the standard trio, while the desserts were also plated.
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In terms of beverages, juices were offered at the main area while a coffee machine (not photographed) and soft drinks were located behind.
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The shower room is located right at the entrance of the female lavatory.
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Amenities offered were standard and at least they got the water quite right, but the room was rather tight.
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Lounge test verdict and departure


Given the choice, I would lean towards GA's domestic lounge rather than the international contract lounge. Both of them have no view and are dry, and while GA's lounge may be darker it offered more amenities and seem to be better run than the international contract lounge. Since somehow there was no lounge listed here I would just put the ratings here (domestic/international):

Comfort: 7 / 6.5
Meal/catering: 7 / 5.5
Services: 5 / 4.5
Entertainment: 4 / 3

I then proceeded to the gates. On the right side was once the temporary business class lounge.
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The gates were mostly filled with passengers for this flight.
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Plane of the day: PK-GMK, a 8-years old plane.
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The gate had shifted to gate 8 without announcement.
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Boarding soon announced with priority for business class slightly not enforced (but they still prioritized wheelchair users).
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I then walked through the aerobridge to the plane.
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There was a minor queue, but I soon entered the plane.
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On board


Flight: GA854
Plane: PK-GMK
STD/ATD: 07.40/07.50
STA/ATA: 10.50/11.00
Load factor: 41% C (5/12), 86%Y (130/150)
Seat type: Recliner business class (window seat)
Details: https://flightaware.com/live/flight/PKGMK/history/20180218/0040Z/WARR/WSSS

I was welcomed and soon reached to my seat.
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I didn't take a photo of my seat, so I took photo of the ones across. The IFE remote control can be also seen.
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Legroom was fine.
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The business class pillow, bearing Garuda's logo
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IFE uses the exact same screen as in economy class, just mounted on the holder, except with the remote control. The screen was also not that touch-sensitive, a typical symptom on GA's older 737s.
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The overhead screen may occasionally pop up, mostly showing the moving map and safety instruction.
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The table is quite sturdy by folding table standard (though the middle can go slightly down) since the far end is secured to the middle armrest.
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As expected, the usual goodies were there.


Except for the headphone of course - the business class headphone is better than those in economy but still not that good either.
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Power plugs were also available at the middle armrest.
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The seat can be manually adjusted, however after the meal I tried to use the legrest which was broken.
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As usual on 737, individual air vents still exist.
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Hot towel with GA's logo was soon provided on a wooden dish, which is more presentable and convenient (since it was quite hot) than directly given to the passenger. Unlike in MH C, the towel was indeed better executed.
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The flight attendant also asked for my welcome drink, to which I asked for the martebe (markisa terong belanda / passion fruit and Dutch eggplant) juice, which was quite good.
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The flight attendant then offered local newspapers, to which I took the Jawa Pos. Is a news on artists caught for possessing drugs the best one for the day?
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Menu was also distributed, which were in Indonesian on one side and English on the other.
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Since it's an old plane, the same problem as the one seen on my flight to TKG can be seen as well: improperly fitted lamp covers.
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Safety video was played, and as usual at the end the flight attendants would clasp their hands in front of us like on the video.
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We were parked beside CX's A330 bound to HKG.
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After the safety video, the flight attendant would take our breakfast order. To maintain eye level, she would kneel when taking each order. I opted for the Indonesian option and champagne, and then she would ask me whether I would like to have the champagne after take-off or during the meal - the earlier the better so I decided to start with it. Throughout the flight she would address me with my name, which is appreciated.
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We soon left the terminal 2 to runway 10.
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MZ's graveyard.
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Take-off was slightly bumpy, but soon we left SUB.
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After take-off the flight attendant distributed blankets, which everybody took.
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My champagne was soon given, which was Castelnau Cuvee Brut Millesime - drinkable and better than KL's Nicolas Feuillatte but I would prefer the Billecart-Salmon Brut Rose they had a few years back.
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We soon reached the cruising altitude, which was rather low at 32000 feet.
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Tablecloth was soon applied to my table, bearing GA's logo.
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Following is the menu for the flight:
Appetizer: Fresh fruit cuts
Bread: Bread basket (croissant and one other bread with chocolate) with butter, jam, and honey
Main course: Indonesian-style nasi uduk (coconut rice) with chicken, omelette with chicken sausage, or banana cream crepe
Dessert: Yoghurt
Drink (default): Water
Drink: Champagne / white wine / red wine / fruit juices / soft drink / water / coffee / tea / hot chocolate

This is the Indonesian option, which proved to be more popular. After she passed the tray, the flight attendant said, "Have a nice meal, Mr. Eric" which is a nice gesture but seemed interesting as I didn't hear her mention the other passengers by name.
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To start, the fruit cuts were fine. The main course was really good especially with the coconut rice and chicken being very flavourful it's comparable to eating outside the airport (there's almost no such thing as Indonesian fine dining, for what it's worth) - if there's any to complaint, it would be that the tempeh was a bit dry. The yoghurt was also fine despite being awkwardly put (or is it that I got too used to have one right from the cup?), but the breads were both soggy. On overall, the meal was quite fine for a short-haul breakfast flight.

Since I had finished my glass of champagne, the flight attendant offered me to top it up as she served the meal - who am I to reject?
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After the meal I did my lavatory visit. The lavatory was quite clean since it was her first flight of the day.
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Clarins amenities were available, but apart from that it's an economy class lavatory.
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As the legrest in seat 8A was broken, I told the flight attendant on it who then tried the legrest herself and afterwards suggested me to move to any other seat. My friend suggested me to try the bulkhead seat, which has worse legroom than my original seat.
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I then worked on my laptop, but not before trying to look at their classical music choices, which were limited.


The flight attendant then offered snacks from the snack basket, to which I took the potato chips and asked to have it accompanied with champagne - as far as I noticed I was the only one ordering champagne during the flight.

Me in the seat 6A.
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Seats 6H and 6K were unfilled, and so does the seat 7K. I then asked the flight attendant on the rather low load, to which she answered that they couldn't make it due to sickness or insufficient documents, and also updated the load factor into 5C 130Y instead of the 8C 132Y on check-in which would make the business class cabin consist of 3 normal yet not flying, 2 normal and flying, and 3 upgraded and flying passengers.
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Some views during descent - despite the clear weather we encountered some turbulences along the way.
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You know you're approaching SIN's 02C/02L when you saw those ships and the Expo area.
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AC's planes in both old and new livery and MH's A333.
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Landing was uneventful and we soon proceeded to terminal 3.
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We were parked at the gate A14, one of the southernmost gates, beside SQ's 77W.
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Even in business class we still stood while waiting to deplane.
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I then bid farewell to the flight attendants (there were 2 of them in C) and they called me by name again (is it because I'm the only Indonesian-looking Indonesian?)

I proceeded to the aerobridge.
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Instead of a last photo of PK-GMK I took one of SQ's 77W.
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As usual, the heat detector was there.
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Arrival at SIN and post-arrival trip


I took the people mover to the centre of the terminal 3. I also talked to the couple at seat 8H/K and found that:
- They're Singaporean Malays instead of Indonesians, which could be barely distinguished,
- They were also upgraded using the upgrade bid as I guessed, but
- They bid lower than me (so I should lower mine as well if I ever partake in it again).
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Afterwards, I walked further to collect some of my items at the baggage storage at the terminal 1.
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Immigration was fast and I was through in less than 1 minute as usual.
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My bag was the last one to be taken from the priority baggage collection desk, while some bags were still arriving at the general counter.
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The arrival area.
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After I collected my bag I went out to the landside.
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To end the trip, I decided to take the electric train back to my campus, where I somehow managed to sleep for a while.
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See more

Verdict

Garuda Indonesia

7.5/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment6.0
Meal/catering8.5

Surabaya - SUB

5.1/10
Efficiency5.5
Access4.5
Services4.5
Cleanliness6.0

Singapore - SIN

7.6/10
Efficiency8.5
Access7.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

I have barely any idea how would people justify spending Rp9.000.000 (US$675) roundtrip on such product, but it's undeniable that their soft product is quite solid. The flight attendants were undeniably the best part of the flight (there is a reason they got an award specifically for that), while the meal was quite good and well-adjusted to the nature of the flight. Whether I would get the older or newer plane is mostly down to luck, but GA could do a better job at maintaining the older plane's interior, not especially with the improperly fitted lamp cover and broken legrest. In terms of lounges, both weren't spectacular but still do their job given the smaller number of people flying.

Would I want to do the same again? Given my budget constraints and the overall product offered I would, but won't want to bid as much as for this flight, let alone paying it outright.

Some thing done well for the trip:
+ Check-in processing time at SUB
+ Lack of security and immigration queue at SUB
+ Meal options at GA's domestic lounge
+ Low business class load factor
+ Attentive flight attendant
+ Delectable main course
+ Drinkable champagne and welcome drink
+ Lavatory cleanliness
+ Immigration and customs processing time at SIN

Things that can be improved:
- Ticketing counter visit to get the upgrade document
- Service at the Concordia Premier Lounge
- Lack of views at both lounges
- Unclear boarding priority
- Old plane (this also affects the IFE, I presume?)
- Broken legrest
- Limited bulkhead seat legroom
- Limited IFE options

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

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