This will be my report on flying on Garuda Indonesia economy class from Jakarta CGK to Surabaya SUB, a short-haul intercity flight within Java island, on board their Boeing 737 MAX 8.
Here are the 12 parts of the trip: KUL - CGK on KLM 777-300ER business class: Read here CGK - SUB on Garuda Indonesia 737 MAX 8 economy class: You are here SUB - SRG on Citilink A320-200 economy class: Read here SRG - SUB on Garuda Indonesia CRJ-1000ER economy class: Read here SUB - KJT on Citilink A320-200 economy class: Read here (first commercial flight to KJT) KJT - SUB on Citilink A320-200 economy class: Read here (first commercial flight from KJT) SUB - DPS on Garuda Indonesia 737-800 economy class: Read here DPS - SIN on KLM 777-300ER economy class: Read here SIN - DPS on Jetstar Airways A320 economy class: Read here DPS - CGK on Lion Air 747-400 economy/business class: Read here SUB - CGK on Garuda Indonesia 737 MAX 8 business class: Read here CGK - SIN on Lion Air 737-900ER economy class: Read here
Coinciding with my last university holiday, Kertajati International Airport (KJT) in Majalengka would start operating for commercial flights on 8 June 2018, so I had the thought of a short visit to Jakarta followed by a repositioning flight to SUB.
As my flight would be near to the exodus season where many Indonesians would return to their hometown to celebrate the Ied holiday, the fare had been a bit on the steeper side at Rp884.000 (US$63) after OTA discount.
However, not only was the fare justifiable for the season (it was already shoulder season, plus the timing matched with the start of business hours), it came with access to the upgrade bid, branded as BidUpgrade and like many other airlines also uses Plusgrade. I had written about my successful experience with it before, but this time let's give it a shot again especially since I wasn't sure when I could try it again (note that the 9th to 12th installments hadn't even been thought of). Below you can find some samples of the bid strength and the bid value - note that any upgrade fare for domestic flights when cleared is also subject to 10% Indonesian VAT.
While my upgrade had almost cleared, it didn't go through as I changed my debit card due to damage.
Despite having changed my card details, GA didn't process it up to after the flight was closed for consideration. Worse, the rejection email came as I was airborne so constitute that as failed without notice.
Trip to CGK and check-in
Some of my flights have involved me sleeping on transit to the airport or at the airport, but as I would have 6 flights in 2 consecutive days I opted to get as much sleep on a proper bed as possible and therefore didn't partake in that rite.
I went to Gambir Stn to catch my airport bus. As weird as it sounded, Damri had its largest airport bus operation from the train station and buses operated frequently from 3 AM. On a side note, Gambir Stn is the Jakarta terminus for premium classes (i.e. business and first class) train services running across Java, which made more sense.
The bus service costed Rp40.000 (US$2.9) per person, slightly more than half of the airport train ticket price.
While the bus is tighter than the train, it was bearable for the ~1 hour trip.
Thanks to the lack of traffic and the bus' high speed I found myself at CGK terminal 3 departure kerbside 30 minutes after departing from the station.
The terminal was already getting busy before the morning peak.
As usual we needed to take the preliminary security check, which took me ~1 minute.
The domestic check-in area was also quite crowded
On the other hand, despite multiple foreign carriers now serving at the terminal 3 the international check-in area was still quiet.
FIDS of the morning.
The terminal sported some Ramadan-themed decorations.
The check-in area was not crowded.
GA also promoted their airport upgrade service on the check-in desks, which I inquired.
Following is the price list for the ex-CGK upgrade, which for domestic flights are still further subject to 10% VAT. Furthermore, the ticket would also need to be repriced in case the subclass was too low (i.e. Q/T/V/S/H/L for domestic and V/S/H/L for international). Mine was on subclass T, so I would need to change my ticket to subclass N or higher before applying the domestic upgrade surcharge.
I then went to the ticketing counter. Unfortunately for me, the flight was almost sold out in both classes so they would need to reprice all the way to subclass Y (i.e. their fully flexible economy) before applying the upgrade surcharge, which would end up costing more than buying business class in the first place. I would prefer the direct upgrade from the original subclass like in SUB (more on that on the later installment), though beggars (or in this case cheap upgrade seekers) can't be choosers.
I opted to stay in the back but at least managed to request one of the few remaining emergency exit row seats so I would be seated there. As GA's 7M8 is denser than 738 the reclinable exit row seats are in row 32 instead of 31.
The kiosk boarding pass, which was again printed on a thinner boarding pass stock.
The area behind check-in islands were fitted with benches and dining options.
I then proceeded to the ticket check and then security, which I cleared in ~2 minutes.
CGK transit area and departure
The recomposing area after security.
Afterwards it was a walk down the mostly closed shops before going down to the departure floor.
GA's -GPR before going to SUB later as GA308.
A working space was available which allowed me to charge my battery as well as work for a while, but the latter failed thanks to the abysmal Wi-Fi.
The internet access was so slow I could barely upload anything to FR or sync my files to Google Drive.
A few people soon joined using the working space.
A rest area was also available nearby.
As it was fasting season for many Indonesians restaurants and cafes' dining area were covered with curtains out of respect.
The object of interest for the early morning: PK-GDA, a 6 months old 7M8.
Situation at the waiting area, which was already crowded.
The gate just before boarding commenced.
The boarding took quite long as CGK-SUB route is a premium business route, which means many passengers were eligible for priority boarding.
It took me 5 minutes to clear the boarding process at the gate.
Even so, a snaking queue had already formed at the tunnel leading to the aerobridge.
The terminal 3 control tower, which was needed due to the massive size of the terminal.
The aerobridge FIDS.
The queue to board the plane further continued at the aerobridge itself.
A view of -GDA's nose.
Just like at CGK terminal 1 and 2, the aerobridge was made by a local company.
Being a morning flight, they had almost run out of newspaper.
It took me 5 minutes from the gate to the plane, which was excruciatingly long.
There were some glaring mistakes found, such as the Merapi volcano mark which should be nearer to JOG than BWX.
While the engine nacelle was correctly shown, the same could not be said about the winglet, where it missed the lower one.
The flight details at least refreshed quickly, which was appreciated.
I almost forgot about the seat thickness - while it was thinner than the usual seats found on their 738 it was more comfortable.
As the fasten seatbelt sign was switched off the curtains between business and economy class as well as business class to the front galley were closed.
The screen first showed an overview of what was available on the IFE.
Afterwards it was followed by a series of ads, which took 4 to 5 minutes.
View during cruise over West Java province.
Snack service soon started.
Due to the limited time for service, the flight attendant would carry 6 boxes in one go to be distributed over the entire row, followed by drinks.
15 minutes after the service started I had my snack box, followed by packed coconut water drink, and orange juice as my beverage choice.
Their dining service in economy class was claimed as award-winning, or was it?
Content inside the box.
Instead of using plastic cups for cold drinks, this time GA used the same paper cup with GA's logo in black and white for all drinks.
The unboxed content.
The snack service for the morning consisted of: - Biscuit: Assorted cookies - Bread: Bread with red bean paste filling - Candy: Assorted candies - Drink (default): Aqua brand mineral water - Drink (promotional): Coconut water drink - Drink: Orange juice / apple juice / milk / coffee / tea / water
To start, the cookies were rather fine (note that I'm not a fan of especially sweet cookies like those on Subway). The bread was unfortunately a letdown as they were especially stingy on the fillings and even with that it happened not to be meat, as it had been the case for GA. The candies also happened to be rather sticky on the mouth, which wasn't especially pleasant. On overall, this represented another downgrade from GA's previous snack services.
After the meal service ended I went to the lavatory, which was still clean and well-maintained.
On the other hand, the classic 7M8/7M9 problem still cropped up: the washing basin leaving me with no choice but to become slightly wet at the end of the visit.
As it has been the case for most of my flights I took a photo of the cabin from behind, after which the purser informed me that it was actually not allowed to take photos on board (luckily it didn't end up like on the MH flight to JHB). Therefore, I didn't do a galley visit during this flight.
I then tried watching a TV show, which was again started wit an ad of the World Cup.
The view during cruise. I opted to take a rest for a while so there would be no photo up to arrival at the gate. However, one thing I especially remembered was that the final approach and landing was faster than usual, which made for a hard landing.
We were parked beside CX's plane.
One last view of the business class seat, which I would review the week after.
After I bid farewell to the crew I proceeded to the aerobridge.
Arrival at SUB and post-arrival trip
As usual for SUB terminal 2 domestic flights, I made my way to the much-hated corridor (for one, it's not air-conditioned, yet another thing was that it prevented plane spotting from the terminal.
I then went down to the arrival floor.
Unlike KJT it was a short walk from the escalator to the carousel.
The carousel was quiet as CGK-SUB is mostly a business route.
As I had no luggage I quickly made my way to the public area.
Outside an information centre was set up for the upcoming exodus period.
I made my way to the kerbside where the interterminal shuttle bus was waiting.
The bus was decorated with a view of the Bromo mountain nearby as well as the tourism ambassadors for the province.
The seat was tight, but for a 10 minutes ride I wouldn't expect much.
After 10 minutes of waiting we left the terminal 2 to the terminal 1.
We went through the dedicated road, which allowed for a bit of spotting.
Jakarta - CGK
Surabaya - SUB
While GA still offered a pleasant way to travel on the business route, it became clear that GA had desperately tried to cut costs and increase revenues. From the last-minute airport upgrade (though this is one positive aspect for me), tighter configuration, reduced snack service quality, all the way to endless ads, when those things add up it seemed to cheapen the on board product. In terms of the airports, both CGK and SUB were rather acceptable with decent gate positioning as well as fast check-in security and the only real complaints were the terminal fee (a staggering Rp130.000 (US$9.5)) and slow Wi-Fi at CGK as well as the interstitial corridor at SUB.
As much as I would still like to fly with GA again, I would need to lower my expectations had I opted to fly with them again.
Some thing done well for the trip (airports): + Fast check-in at CGK + Upgrade offer at CGK (albeit slightly restricted) + Reasonable security at CGK + Gate usage at CGK + Short walking distance at SUB
Some thing done well for the trip (on board): + Reasonable price (given it was an early morning flight on shoulder season; Rp884.000 (US$63)) + Decent emergency exit row seat legroom + Modern cabin + Clean lavatory
Things that can be improved (airports): - Slow Wi-Fi at CGK - Interstitial corridor at SUB - Interterminal bus frequency at SUB
Things that can be improved (on board): - Slow upgrade clearing - Number of ads shown - Limited IFE offerings (both music and moving map) - Low quality snack service - Narrow lavatory - Unfriendly flight attendant
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