Report #50: GA78 - Segment run + GA lounge test drive
This will be my report on flying on Garuda Indonesia business class from Jakarta CGK to Bandar Lampung TKG, an ultra short-haul flight within Indonesia, on board their Boeing 737-800.
Those who are familiar with GA's frequent flyer program know that flying on GA in their flexible economy class can yield 3 segments instead of 1, thus making it possibly the easiest frequent flyer to get elite status. The reason why earning elite status for cheap is possible is because of a "loophole" related with segments - book as little as 10 or 17 one-way flights in flexible economy class between CGK and TKG or between LOP and DPS/SWQ (more on this on review #58 to #60) and you can get the SkyTeam Elite/Elite Plus-equivalent status respectively. While by Indonesian standards the fares aren't that cheap (the fare for flexible economy class between CGK and TKG on GA can yield a business class ticket with ID on HLP to TKG), it can still be handy to get access to their lounges as well as priority ground services.
I bought their flexible economy class ticket at around Rp700.000 (~US$47) as I initially booked on an OTA and got cashback but subsequently needed to reprice to the flexible economy class to get the segments. Added with the airport upgrade, the total fare came to Rp920.000 (~US$62).
Trip to CGK and check-in
My current preferred bus service to the airport is the JA Connexion operated by Perum PPD bus from Pondok Indah Mall, which departs hourly. While Damri has a more frequent bus service to/from Blok M Terminal, Pondok Indah Mall is much easier to get to/from and also the buses are much more empty.
The bus was already waiting at the boarding area, so I decided to quickly go in just before the bus departed.
There were only a handful of people taking the bus.
Before the bus entered the expressway from Lebak Bulus, the driver stopped the bus and collected the fare first, after which I was handed with the ticket.
As I forgot to tell the bus driver to drop me off at terminal 3, I ended up arriving at the terminal 3's arrival floor after picking up the passengers from terminal 1/2.
To be exact, this is also the last stop before going back to Pondok Indah Mall.
I then went to the check-in floor and afterwards went through a preliminary security check before going into the check-in area.
Since I got my newly acquired status, I went to the GarudaMiles Silver counter. However, since I asked for the airport upgrade I was redirected to the business class check-in counter.
A row was dedicated for GA's business/first class as well as its own top tier frequent flyer. I was directed by the staff to the cashier where I checked for the upgrade surcharge pricing.
The airport upgrade surcharge list for virtually all domestic flights. Since my flight would fall under the < 1 hour bucket, I was charged Rp220.000 (US$15) for the airport upgrade, 20% less than what they would charge under the old list.
Exceptions apply, of course, but despite its popularity the CGK-DPS route follow the general upgrade surcharge, which would bring me to the report #52 later.
As usual, I received the airport upgrade EMD as well as the business class boarding pass.
I proceeded through the security, which was fast.
CGK transit area
After security I walked through a corridor filled with shops.
Since I had access to GA's lounge I took the left escalator to the mezzanine floor to go to GA's lounge.
Lounge test #1: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Lounge
In CGK as GA's global hub, its domestic lounge is divided into two separate area, the one for business class and another for GarudaMiles Gold (that is, GA's second highest tier frequent flyer, equivalent to SkyTeam Elite) members. This would focus on the business class lounge, while a quick sneak peek of the GarudaMiles Gold section can be read below.
After I turned around following the escalator ride the lounge reception could be seen. However, this reception only caters to the SkyTeam Elite Plus or GA's business class passengers, while the GarudaMiles Gold members would need to go through the corridor to enter the lounge from the rear reception.
I was let in and after passing through the ornately decorated wall I was inside.
Padded chairs as well as the proper sofas could be seen as I entered the lounge.
Newspapers and magazines were spread in a number of places inside.
Further inside is the dining area and additional seating area.
Some VIP rooms were also available, which were locked.
Wi-Fi also existed, which was acceptable.
Late lunch time: the first menu visible from the front reception is the meatball soup with noodle.
Some hot buffet items were also available.
The cold meal selection was limited, though in Indonesia we don't really have much of those cold salad.
Instead, we prefer lukewarm salad like this one.
The bread and tomato soup.
Another soup was also provided, which was Bogor-style turmeric beef soup. I must confess, though, that unlike the soup there were really a lot of beef in the soup pan so I filled my soup bowl mostly with those beef.
The drinks and popcorn section.
This is GA after all, so naturally hot towels were also provided.
In terms of the lavatory, the business class lounge boast a couple of shower cubicles, which I didn't use.
More about the rest of the lounge: a basic playing area for children, though it was open.
Typical of GA's lounges, two foot massage machines were provided.
A movie theatre offering screenings was located at the corner of the lounge, which also doubled as a rest area.
The business centre consisted of two PCs.
As expected of an airline lounge, its own FIDS was also screened.
Once in a while, a staff would bring the inflight sales cart and offer items like those sold on board.
The rear reception allowed access to both the GarudaMiles Lounge as well as the business class lounge.
At the rear reception I asked if it would be possible for me to check the GarudaMiles Lounge, to which the reception allowed.
The lounge mainly consisted of rows of padded chairs instead of proper sofa, which made it much less private than the business class one. Being semi-open air, this section was also much warmer.
Apart from a couple of different items missing, the food items are relatively comparable to the business class one.
The most noticeable downgrade, however, has to be on the coffee: instead of an espresso machine this lounge featured powdered coffee machine.
The business class lounge was on overall decent enough to spend some time before a flight, which makes the upgrade surcharge quite worth it (later on I learned that the walk-in fare for the lounge would be also set at Rp220.000 (US$15)). However, the lounge for GarudaMiles Gold members were a significant downgrade from the business class lounge, which was a shame because on other domestic airports they would receive access to the same business class lounge.
FIDS of the late afternoon.
Since I had spent my time in the lounge I didn't visit the working space.
My gate was initially supposed to take a while to get to by the moving walkway alone.
However, a buggy service was provided for those going to the domestic extension pier.
The buggy was able to handle 5 passengers in one trip and were regularly dispatched.
It was admittedly quite an experience as it went at 8 km/h, roughly double my walking speed.
After reaching the end of the main building we turned to the domestic extension pier.
The ride still lasted for a while, though some people alighted at their respective gates.
I alighted at its terminus, after which the buggy returned to gate 15 for another round of pick-up.
Situation at the gate.
The plane for the evening was being prepared.
Boarding was fast and priority was enforced.
I made my way through the corridor and then the aerobridge.
The plane about to bring me to TKG was PK-GNS, a 3 years old 738 and also one of the latest 738 delivered to GA.
As I boarded early, I soon found myself reaching the door 1L.
I was welcomed and afterwards proceeded to the cabin.
My seat for this flight.
A GA-branded pillow was provided even for this short flight, which was decent-sized.
Legroom was as usual quite decent, though it's not much more than the one on the emergency exit row seats in economy class.
The seat controls were all manual.
A table can be found at the armrest near the wall (or in the case of aisle seats, near the aisle), which was quite sizable.
Newspaper was available to take for boarding.
Time to check the seat pocket: to my dismay the seat pocket happened not to be cleaned.
In business class the literatures are all packed in a clear folder.
The contents were rather usual.
On some flights GA opted for a smaller on board sales collection, which was marked by the catalogue size.
Last but not least, the airsickness bag.
While I did the seat review, a flight attendant also offered newspapers to read.
In addition, my welcome drink was also provided on the cocktail side table.
The seatbelt was normal.
A domestic business class headphone was also presented, which was not noise-cancelling. Two way to look at it would be either by the battery on the cable (none here) or the number of pins (2 instead of 3).
A 3-pin headphone connector as well as a remote control are locared below the middle armrest.
The two sides of the remote control.
On GA's 738 business class, the IFE screen is located inside the armrest instead of on the seatback like on its 7M8, so it didn't see much use throughout the flight.
There was practically no view to speak of here before pushback.
Selfie test: the headrest was barely adjustable height-wise, which I particularly disliked.
The welcome drinks were only brought as the passengers requested, so another round was needed.
Typical on GA, even on this ultra short-haul route a hot towel service was still available using a scented, GA-branded towel.
Since we were unable to use our own monitors, an overhead screen is provided for each side of the cabin, initially showing the moving map.
As we pushed back the safety video was screened.
GA's tradition dictates the flight attendants to clasp at the end of the safety video screening, which also happened this time.
QG's 320 and MH's 738 taxiing into terminal 3 from PEN and KUL respectively.
As usual, terminal 2D/E is filled with international carriers.
GA's 77W and JT's 744 parked together - when does JT's 744 actually make money, if ever?
On the background KL's 77W could be seen going around after attempting to land at runway 7R.
The cabin was dimmed for departure. Since this was on late afternoon, a ~15 minutes wait was needed for us to get to the runway.
As we hold short, KL's 77W from KUL made her second attempt to land.
We soon took off into the gloomy weather.
After the fasten seatbelt sign was switched off the flight attendants rushed to close the curtains.
Snack service immediately followed.
Instead of a hot meal (which would be ridiculous given it's only a ~200 km trip), a snack box was distributed. The business class snack box was coloured red instead of yellow and was slightly wider.
The inside looked pretty much the same as what you would expect in economy class.
Upon inspecting it closer, the main difference is that there are 3 snacks instead of 2 in economy class.
The snack service consisted of: Savoury bread: Bread with minced meat filling Sweet bread: Raisin muffin Dessert: Assorted cookies Drink (default): Mineral water Drink: Water/fruit juice
Drink orders were taken and I opted for orange juice again. Even on such a short flight they managed to provide a refill as well, which was appreciated.
Another classic case of GA being GA, even in business class they still provided very few meat filling on their bread.
Their muffin was also a bit drier than expected as shown by the outside crust.
A quick preview on the classical music selection still showed 26 albums.
I then visited the lavatory nobody else bothered to use, which was still clean and well-equipped.
After the lavatory visit was done the cabin had been prepared for descent.
The view during the earlier part of the descent.
As we descended and the sun set it became darker outside, thus making it more challenging to take even a half-decent photo.
We then flew past the intercity road and TKG.
As we approached TKG I was afforded with a view of downtown Bandar Lampung.
At this point the cabin was dimmed to almost dark.
Landing was uneventful and we proceeded to the runway end to turn around before reaching the apron.
The overhead screen was opened again.
Following a short taxi we were finally parked beside JT's 738.
I bid farewell to the crew and then left the plane.
A short walk along the aerobridge and corridor followed.
The FIDS for the evening.
Arrival at TKG and post-arrival trip
After reaching the terminal building a short walk through the interstitial corridor was needed to get to the escalator.
A short escalator ride brought me to the arrival floor.
The luggage claim area was quite crowded.
Since I had no luggage, I breezed through the arrival and then into the equally crowded public area.
I went to the far end of the terminal near the walkway to carpark to take the bus.
The bus was cramped and later on I found the bus to be packed as well.
A one-way ticket to the city centre costed Rp25.000 (~US$1.7). Note that this was the cheapest available way to go to the city centre as a solo traveller - there was no competition in terms of public transport.
Some of you may also remember the Tanjung Karang Stn on some of my previous reports.
I slept at a budget hotel, but not after taking calls from my colleague from my company's overseas office.
Garuda Domestic Lounge
Jakarta - CGK
Bandar Lampung - TKG
While the hard product onboard this flight still leave something to desire, this was still a decent offering with an acceptable domestic lounge as well as being a cost-effective way to get their elite status. On overall, I would not hesitate flying on this route again for segment run.
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