Report #61: GA70 - Time to pray for less E-series 738 on GA?
This will be my report on flying on Garuda Indonesia economy class from Jakarta CGK to Bandar Lampung TKG, an ultra short-haul route within Indonesia, on board its Boeing 737-800. This review will be shorter than usual since I had reviewed the lounge a couple of times and the flight time was rather short.
Here are the 2 parts of the trip:
CGK - TKG on Garuda Indonesia 737-800 economy classYou are here
TKG - CGK on Garuda Indonesia 737-800 economy classComing soon
After a couple of other CGK-TKG flights which unfortunately I didn't plan to review for now (there are just too many flights on my backlog, but all of them were still properly documented) and the 3 island segment run series I had reported before, I was only 6 segments shy from reaching GA's platinum status (equivalent to SkyTeam Elite Plus; their gold status is only equivalent to SkyTeam Elite) the proper way. In addition, I also had a couple of expiring OTA vouchers from my visit on GA's travel fair the month before, so I figured out that I may as well take the last ultra short-haul hops on GA for 2018.
I booked a quick return flight (you're looking at only 4 1/4 hours from arriving at CGK by bus and leaving CGK again by bus) on their flexible economy class 2 days before the trip, which for this flight costed me Rp694.900 (US$46) before OTA cashback. In return, I earned 70 KrisFlyer miles from my credit card, 160 GarudaMiles award miles from the flight, and 3 GarudaMiles segments for this flight alone.
A couple of days after the return flight my status was upgraded - too bad GA wouldn't send physical cards even for their top-tier members, but this was already one of, if not the fastest ways to SkyTeam Elite Plus-equivalent status from scratch with only 22 short-haul flights on GA and KL flown and counted, many of them in economy class, so there's not much complaint in this regard.
Trip to CGK and check-in
I did my check-in at one of GA's sales offices and had my three boarding passes for this day and the day after in the boarding pass folder (the last one will be covered in the next series).
The boarding pass, like almost all boarding pass printed by GA, was printed on its own stock paper.
I took the airport bus from my place to CGK.
Typical of airport buses, I was dropped near doors 3 and 4.
Since I had no bag to check, I went into the terminal through door 5, especially since the preliminary security check was faster than the one at door 4.
The check-in hall was quite full, though I could skip that thanks to the office-printed boarding passl
It was time to go through the security check, which was fast.
CGK transit area
An unused lounge access is an unreviewed one, which would be a waste, so I picked the left escalator to the mezzanine floor.
Lounge test #1: Garuda Indonesia Domestic Lounge
As a GarudaMiles Gold member I received complimentary access to GarudaMiles Lounge (which is also a part of GA's domestic lounge) in CGK when flying on domestic flights. This review will only cover a bit about the lounge - for a more detailed review of the lounge, read here.
I first reached the business class lounge entrance, but I was of course not welcome: I needed to get into the lounge from the other entrance due to my lowly status.
To get to the other entrance I needed to pass through the bland corridor beside the business class lounge.
I reached the rear reception, and from there I was allowed into the lounge, both on the GarudaMiles Gold section and business class section.
GA had done some massive promotions related with their frequent flyer program, including among them either 3 months Platinum status trial gifting for existing Platinum members' family members or 3 months Platinum status trial for existing Gold members, all of which were extendable to end-2019 with only 20 GarudaMIles segments instead of 50, which meant that: - GarudaMIles Gold members could also access the business class lounge instead of their own lounge until December 2018, and - The business class section of the lounge got very crowded from the sudden increase in elite members.
I also had some difficulties in finding table for me to dine since they were either occupied or not cleared.
It's breakfast time in the lounge, and with the first flights for the day departing soon many people also partook in it.
The main hot buffet selection for early morning flights was very limited and uninspiring - egg fried rice with sausage bits, sausage, potatoes, and sauteed mized vegetables.
I also had their chicken porridge, apparently a favourite among those in the lounge, which was ordinary.
To end the meal, I had some fruit cuts as well, which were equally limited.
Since it was still 30 more minutes to departure according to the FIDS in the lounge and the gate was quite close to the lounge's escalator to the departure floor, I stayed in the lounge for a while before proceeding to the gate.
Lounge test verdict and departure
While GA's mass status upgrade is appreciated for infrequent flyers, when it comes to lounge access it also came as a downgrade for those attaining status the proper way with the lounge becoming way too crowded. The food offerings for early morning departures were also rather bad, and this lounge became a less than acceptable flagship domestic lounge (for the uninitiated, though GA also operate a lot of flights to/from DPS, CGK is still pretty much considered as GA's global hub).
Since it was only 20 minutes to the STD, I quickly walked to the gate.
Boarding was queue-free and I soon found myself proceeding to the plane.
Since I was among the last to board there was barely any queue in the aerobridge.
It was time for me to get on board. Unlike GA's other 738 (i.e. PK-GF*/GM*/GN* planes), this one doesn't have a display rack at the L1 entrance and therefore needed to use a trolley to put the usual offerings of newspapers and candies.
It was only after I was welcomed by the cabin crews that I actually understood why many GA frequent flyers hope not to get the dreaded E-series plane (i.e. PK-GE*): it's extremely outdated by Indonesian standard.
The business class seats, while looking similar to the business class seats on the newer 738 at first, were vastly different experience-wise since it lacked a couple of important features like individual IFE, legrest, and even power plug.
It was time to proceed to the economy class cabin, which I preferred anyway for the lower price-per-segment.
I arrived at my seat, which looked basic it's comparable with low-cost carriers.
Legroom has never been an issue on this row, but seat width is, thanks to the foldable table inside the armrest.
The seatback for the emergency exit rows didn't have any table installed: just a literature pocket and hard plastic cover.
Reminiscent of an old cabin, the foldable table was also irregularly shaped.
Contents inside the literature pocket. Since there was no individual IFE, no headphone was provided throughout the flight.
The view from my window consisted of GA's 332.
Safety video was shown through the overhead screen.
At the same time we started our taxi out from terminal 3.
Following the safety video the screen was retracted and the cabin light dimmed.
Take-off also offered a view of CGK's terminals 2 and 1.
Since mornings in greater Jakarta tend to be cloudy, there was no view to speak of as we climbed.
After the fasten seatbelt sign was switched off a snack service commenced while some silent comedies were shown.
Typical on ex-CGK flights with GA without hot meal service, I received a pack of coconut water drink on top of the usual snack box.
Contents inside the snack box.
Like many others here, I also struggled to find the meat in the bread.
The snack service for the morning consisted of: - Biscuit: Assorted cookies - Bread: Bread with flavoured chicken mince filling - Drink (default): Aqua brand mineral water - Drink (promotional): Coconut water drink
While the bread was a tad better than the hideous ex-LOP bread, it was still stingy quantity-wise. Fortunately, though, the cookies weren't that bad and the addition of coconut water drink also helped, which made this snack service rather acceptable for the short hop.
We started our descent in no time.
Only 25 minutes after we took off from CGK we eventually landed at TKG.
Situation in the cabin as we taxied in.
It was time to deplane, which was quite fast thanks to the light load.
Typical of GA's mainline flights to/from TKG, they used an aerobridge for this flight.
FIDS for the morning. Try finding my next flight there.
Arrival at TKG and post-arrival trip
After passing through the interstitial corridor I went down to the arrival floor.
The luggage claim area was rather quiet, partly because this flight was more of a commuter flight if anything.
Since TKG had no dedicated walkway for connecting passengers (it's quite a small airport anyway) it was time to walk along the kerbside for the next installment of the series.
Garuda Domestic Lounge
Jakarta - CGK
Bandar Lampung - TKG
While there aren't many 738 in GA's fleet bearing the PK-GE* registration, getting one wasn't exactly the most pleasant surprise with basic seats and outdated interior, though at least it wasn't in disrepair. In hindsight, however, at least I considered myself lucky I needed to endure the rather dismal plane for only 1 hour since the plane is sometimes deployed for flights up to 2 hours. In addition, the experience in the business class lounge was also downgraded with many more people suddenly eligible to access that lounge, which isn't exactly good news. Apart from those issues, though, the flight itself was pretty much fine as far as "shuttle" flight goes and I still had my GarudaMiles segments credited quickly.
On overall, I would fly on this route only if I needed to top-up my segments with GA for the following year.
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