This will be my report on flying on Garuda Indonesia business class from Surabaya SUB to Jakarta CGK, a short-haul intercity flight within Java island, on board their Boeing 737 MAX 8. This review was particularly unique as I was the sole passenger in the business class cabin, so read on!
As part of a revenge from my previous flight where I didn't make it upfront, I decided to get a chance of the business class cabin on the second part of the aviation tour, first by buying the subclass V ticket and aimed for the upgrade using GA's upgrade auction system. That was the ideal situation as when cleared through the auction I would get the full amount of miles as though I flew on subclass C.
The V subclass ticket ended up costing me Rp854.500 (US$61), which was a bit on the steeper side.
I then submitted my upgrade bid, which I set at Rp880.000 (US$63) after tax as the load was still low.
Unfortunately, as there was apparently nobody to clear the upgrades (it was the exodus season after all) I received the rejection email just around the web check-in time, which left me with no choice but to try the airport upgrade.
Trip to SUB and check-in
Like during the forced layover in DPS I slept especially well in hotels (compared with hostel or budget rooms) so I aimed to arrive at SUB 1 hour before the scheduled departure time.
Instead of motorbike taxi, I took a car to the airport.
I then reached the terminal, which wasn't that crowded.
There were some people waiting at the kerbside.
First I needed to go through the security check to even go to the public area shops, although that was fast.
There were more people proceeding to the check-in hall.
It was a bit unusual to see the promotion for the burger joint being done like that, though the promotion was indeed on the steeper side.
I first went to the check-in counter and checked the load in business class, which was light (2/8 without me yet).
Afterwards I opted to go to the ticketing counter and asked for the upgrade fare, which costed me Rp1.045.000 (US$74) and therefore brought the total to Rp1.895.000 (US$135). I then paid the fee and afterwards have the EMD issued like my SUB-SIN upgrade.
With my upgrade EMD and original ticket at hand I proceeded back to the check-in counter.
The cut boarding pass for the morning.
An escalator ride was needed to get to the departure floor.
As it was still Ramadan period for Muslims, the open restaurants were covered with curtains.
I first went to the automated ticket check.
It was then followed by security, which I cleared in ~2 minutes.
SUB transit area
The transit area consisted of quite a few stores and rows of plastic seats. Since this was only used by GA and QZ, understandably it's on the smaller side.
Boarding for another GA flight to CGK was on its way.
I then made my way to the lounge, located just behind the seating area.
Lounge test #1: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Lounge
I first went to the reception, where my boarding pass was checked before the reception staff filled the lounge pass stub.
Just like before, a towel steamer was present.
The towel was indeed a nice touch, though some damage on the towel was already visible.
Newspapers and a handful of magazines were not absent, though the magazine selection was on the more limited side
The sole windowed seating area was the one behind the reception counter, and even so it only provided a view of the seating area.
Most seats are located inside the lounge.
Two foot massage machines were also provided, though it was unused throughout the stay.
The hot buffet on offer was basic, but have a strong Indonesian feel and taste, which matched with the Indonesian clientele.
In Indonesia we love to eat crackers (which is basically flavoured starch anyway), so there were some available as well.
As before, porridge was also served, though I didn't try it again this time.
Kediri-style vegetable salad with spicy peanut sauce and rice cake was present as well.
The continental breakfast offerings.
A staffed coffee machine was available, so I asked for some iced cappuccino, which apparently has become my fuel for this trip series.
The cappuccino was however provided in a standard tall glass, which proved to be smaller than expected.
One item that I forgot to take photo earlier is rice with a bit of side dishes and spicy chili sauce. I only managed to eat a bit of it before the ground staff went into the lounge and announced the boarding of the flight.
Lounge test verdict and departure
On overall, the GA lounge at SUB wasn't the most inspiring out of all and with barely any view it wasn't excellent. However, it was functional and offered a place for a quick Indonesian-style meal while charging a phone or working for a while, which was mostly the point for the business travelers (note that GA's most significant operation at SUB was indeed to CGK).
My rating (since there is no lounge to choose from above): Comfort 6.5 Meal/catering 5 Services 5.5 Entertainment 5.5
As I exited the lounge boarding was already underway.
The signage leading to the correct gate.
Typical at SUB terminal 2 it first involved a walk down the warm interstitial corridor.
The vents blocked much of the view of the plane.
A staff then directed us to the correct boarding gate.
It was another short walk down the corridor before reaching the air-conditioned aerobridge.
The sole proper view of -GDA I took throughout the flight.
There was a bit of queue to enter the plane.
The table usually used to put the newspaper happened to be empty.
I soon reached the plane. Note the much smaller display rack than the one found on their 738.
The ownership plate indeed confirmed that it was the -GDA, which was the reason for me to take this flight after all.
After I was welcomed by the flight attendants I proceeded to the business class cabin.
GA's 7M8 has an intimate business class cabin at only 8 seats.
I opted for the window seat at the second row.
The baggage handlers could be clearly seen from the window adjacent to the seat.
The seat 7C's table was used to put the newspapers for passengers to take.
Separating the seats are the armrest and cocktail table.
The middle armrest could be opened, which revealed the storage area inside.
An AC/USB plug was present, though there were only 2-pin headphone jack instead of 3.
Unlike in economy class, a remote control was also provided.
The remote have two different sides: one for controlling the IFE and the other for typing.
Inside the armrest beside the window or aisle (for window and aisle seats respectively) is a table, though unlike most other tables I had observed in business class the table indicator had to be pulled before the table would slightly pop and afterwards brought to the lap.
As usual, the table could be either fully used or folded into two.
The buttons to recline the seat or extend the footrest are still manual, though it was acceptable for a recliner seat.
Legroom was exceptionally spacious for the second row seat.
While the headphone was more decent than the one in economy class, the one provided wasn't noise-cancelling.
The headrest was a bit on the smaller side, though still quite adjustable.
The contents in the literature pocket were put in a clear folder.
A safety card was present, which was still quite good.
The magazine trio was also at my disposal.
To complete the collection was an airsickness bag.
Service started with hot towel service, which used GA-branded towel.
Typical on GA business class magazines were then offered, where I then opted for Tempo. Also, at this point the flight attendant asked for my welcome drink, to which I first asked for their signature drink, passion fruit and Dutch eggplant juice, to which they said it was reserved for international flights, so I picked the orange juice instead.
The welcome drink arrived in their glass.
The view beside was of GA's AT7 under the Explore sub-brand.
As we pushed back, CX's plane taxied for departure back to HKG.
As the rest of the cabin was empty the business class flight attendant sat on the bulkhead seat up to takeoff.
We soon pushed back and started our taxi to runway 10.
Safety video was screened.
The IFE can be controlled using the screen above Boeing's default cabin setting (e.g. lighting).
As we taxied to the runway JT's 738 were also taxiing from the terminal 1 side.
She then took off earlier, just ahead of us.
One last view of SUB terminal 2 until the following month as we were holding short.
Take-off was uneventful and we started our climb to the east before heading west to CGK.
After the fasten seatbelt sign was switched off the IFE preview video was first screened.
Like on my other flights with GA a number of ads were displayed.
The tablecloth was first being put while afterwards the breakfast was delivered by hand from the galley. I was then asked for my drink order, to which I opted for coffee (I was offered a choice between Toraja coffee and one other kind of coffee).
I opted for the Toraja coffee, which was then served in GA's domestic business class cup.
The menu consisted of: Appetizer: Fresh fruit cuts Bread: Bread roll with butter Main course: Fried rice with chicken and corned beef omelette or pancake Dessert: Rice flour gruel and sago pearls with pandan leaf Condiment: Chili sauce Drink (default): Mineral water Drink: Fruit juices / soft drink / water / coffee / tea
To start, the fruit cuts were fine, while the bread also equally unmemorable. The main course, on the other hand, was the severe pain point - the fried rice itself lacked the distinctive wok smell and tasted off, more like the prepacked fried rice sold in the roadside stalls than the cooked-to-order fried rice from roadside carts, the chicken quite dry, and the omelette was neither flavourful nor have much of the corned beef taste. To end the meal, the dessert tasted quite normal like on the ground, which was appreciated. On overall, while trying to offer an Indonesian cuisine the meal wasn't particularly fit for business class.
During much of the cruise I had the opportunity to talk with the purser. Here are some of the things we discussed: - While there were previously only 2 ads on their IFE, there were now 9 of them, which took up to 5 minutes to end - he also shared the inconvenience and suggested me to fulfill the suggestion form. - Their 7M8 had been originally proposed to fly longer routes (all the way to PER), but for some reasons that didn't work and ended up only flying at CGK-SUB-CGK-SUB-CGK rotation (note: wef 1 August 2018 GA's 7M8 no longer flies the route and started flying on CGK-HKG-CGK-SIN-CGK rotation daily on flight numbers GA876/873/834/835 respectively.) - While I had suggested the possibilities of flying 7M8 on "holiday" routes heavier in Y, he mentioned that it was a thing in the past and now even leisure travelers start flying in J, including among them thanks to the paid airport upgrade. - Related to the increasing load factor at the front, some markets see a significant amount of such upgrade such as flights from Japan or LHR. - SIN flights are considered special by GA (high yield?) and therefore see more extensive services compared with the rest of their short-haul flights, including ice cream service on ex-SIN flights not on breakfast times. - The less business class seats approach on their 7M8 was unpopular for business travelers as the cabin felt cramped so the rest of the 738 won't have their J cut (a few had their J cut to match the 7M8) but the effect on 7M8 remains to be seen.
I mostly watched the moving map, which was unfortunately only in 2D.
I then tried the seat when fully reclined and legrest extended. While the seat itself doesn't recline much, the legrest extend almost all the way up. Also note the legrest being shorter than normal, which made it less comfortable.
Some views during descent.
The ample legroom could not be felt at the first row, which feature legroom akin to economy class bulkhead seat.
The economy class seen from the front - check my earlier review for a more comprehensive review of the economy class.
I revisited the classical music offering on the IFE, which wasn't particularly wide.
As we descended over the coast north of Jakarta some ships could be seen, though nowhere nearly as many as Singapore.
Before the final descent an announcement was made through the IFE screen.
We started reaching the mainland.
The expressway linking Jakarta's inner ring road and CGK.
It was only after seeing the massive terminal 3 (the glass building with white roof) that I realized we were about to land at runway 25L.
In fact, it was so massive it could be seen as we flew above the runway start.
While the taxi took a while, it also offered an opportunity to view all 3 terminals in CGK.
SQ's 359 taxiing for her return to SIN.
GA's CRK parked at the far end of terminal 3's international concourse.
The land of GA.
As I forgot to visit the lavatory I decided to go there after the plane was parked, which was clean yet typical of 737 MAX was a bit cramped and featured the notorious faucet.
One last photo of the cabin - my seat is indicated with the raised headrest.
After bidding farewell to the purser I left the plane.
Being all alone in the cabin also meant being the first to disembark.
Typical of the aerobridge configuration in CGK terminal 3, there are 2 glass corridors from the departure floor and 1 leading to the interstitial corridor.
I took the downward one.
Arrival at CGK and post-arrival trip
After I reached the terminal building I proceeded to walk down the bland interstitial corridor.
A downward escalator ride was needed to get to the arrival floor.
The arrival area was also used as bus gate.
As others may have also mentioned, CGK terminal 3 is exceptionally long.
Some installations could be found just before the intersection to the luggage claim.
A separate exit was provided for passengers without luggage to claim.
The arrival FIDS, wich reflected GA being the sole user of the terminal for domestic flights.
GA has its own quasi-arrival lounge at a few airports, including CGK.
This was more of a glorified seating area where the baggage for premium class passengers were supposedly going to be put there so the passengers could just walk out with their luggage without waiting at the carousel. While two lavatories were also available, there was no shower area.
There were only drinks available.
The drinks were served using GA-branded paper cup like in Y .
A TV was also present, which at that time played a YouTube video about GA's first class in loop.
After 1 hour of waiting for my luggage and processing the lost luggage claim I finally received my lost luggage form.
I then decided to leave the luggage claim area.
Afterwards I reached the public area for my connection to the city centre to get some lunch and work.
I opted to take the Big Bird shuttle bus, which costed me Rp40.000 (US$2.8) - there was apparently a promotion for us to use the app to get cheaper promotional fare, together with two protein bars.
Bonus: Jakarta to Surabaya by Argo Bromo Anggrek train
Between my flight from DPS to CGK and this flight the only logical explanation must be that I repositioned from Jakarta to Surabaya. However, as flights were pretty expensive (it was already the exodus season) I decided to take the train, and it's none other than Argo Bromo Anggrek, arguably the best train service in Indonesia with an all-first class/sleeper configuration and very limited stop (i.e. only 3 stops for a 9 hours long trip), which also makes it the fastest way to shuttle between Jakarta and Surabaya overland). Its evening schedule is also highly optimized for business travelers so that the train would depart late enough from Jakarta (21.30) after the end of working hours yet still arrive early enough in Surabaya the following day to match the working hours (06.30 +1).
Bonus : Click here displayhide
I booked the train only 9 1/2 hours to departure (and even then I was relying on cancelled tickets), which due to the exodus period costed quite a bit more than normal.
I arrived at the train station one full hour before departure.
Regardless of outside or inside, the train station was packed.
~30 minutes to the STA I proceeded to the ticket check.
An escalator ride was needed to go to the correct side (i.e. which platforms).
Each train service is assigned to a platform pair, with my platform used for trains to Bandung, Surabaya (via the northern coast route), and Yogyakarta.
Unlike the public area, there are much less stores in the transit area.
10 minutes later the train arrived, with the first carriage being the luxury sleeper carriage and the rest first class carriages
As per the tradition for Argo-class train services this service used one of the latest generation first class carriages - the carriage was made in 2016 and was therefore the last generation before the 2018 edition with stainless steel body.
A view of the seat, which I found to be on the narrower side.
Legroom was sufficient, though the swivel mechanism made it challenging to fully stretch my legs (note that the first class seats are always rotated between services facing the direction of travel).
I walked to the front for a while where the luxury sleeper carriage was located. The carriage was one of the newest, being built just months ago. As the first day the sleeper car operateed (but not the train service itself), there was a bit of fanfare from the ground staffs.
Unlike the usual sleeper train services with bunk beds, the sleeper car here was loosely modeled after GA's reverse herringbone business class seat.
The ground staff offered me to try on the seat, which I obliged - the seat was fine, but having flown on business class on board planes I expect a more refined product.
Before reaching Semarang Tawang station we were served with a complimentary breakfast before the fasting period.
As it was free (i.e. more of a goodwill than anything), the offering was dismal.
The menu consisted of: Appetizer: Sliced cucumber and yellow tofu Main course: Rice with fried chicken nugget and braised egg Condiment: Fried prawn crackers and chili sauce
The meal was so bad I ended up using the chili sauce to mask the rice's toughness and the lack of flavour from the other items in the menu. While this was above and beyond what they offered during normal period, this ended up being a dark joke of just how bad the complimentary meals were back when they still served one.
I reached the Pasar Turi station in Surabaya on time.
To start the day, I had a breakfast at the chicken soup joint my family would often go when we visit Surabaya.
I still felt a bit peckish afterwards, so I opted for rice with fried beef tripe before getting somewhere to work on my earlier review.
I stayed at POP! Hotel Diponegoro near the Surabaya zoo, which costed me S$21.29 (~US$16).
Surabaya - SUB
Jakarta - CGK
While GA offered a relatively comfortable way to fly on the shuttle route, but not without a few glaring issues. Apart from the rather expensive fare (even by using airport upgrade), the dining and seat pitch left a rather mixed view, as well as the missing baggage. The lounge at SUB also looked like it could benefit from some upgrade from the dingy interior, and despite the better dining offering the serving size for the iced coffee can be improved as well. In terms of the airports, SUB was generally fine besides the lack of spotting opportunity while CGK was also rather modern, which was appreciated.
On overall, I would fly with their business class again if the fare can decrease up to its competitors (e.g. ID/SJ).
Some thing done well for the trip (airports): + Fast check-in at SUB + Fast security at SUB + Acceptable dining offering at GA's lounge in SUB + Arrival lounge provision at CGK
Some thing done well for the trip (on board): + Modern cabin + Friendly flight attendant + Clean lavatory
Things that can be improved (airports): - Lack of spotter-friendly location at SUB terminal 2 - Dingy interior at GA's lounge at SUB - Small iced coffee serving size at GA's lounge at SUB - Long walk at CGK terminal 3 - Missing luggage
Things that can be improved (on board): - Expensive fare (Rp1.895.000 (US$135)) - Mediocre headphone - Poor main course quality - Limited seat recline - Tight bulkhead seat pitch - Limited IFE selection
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