The airline with the best average rating is Garuda Indonesia with 8.1/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 53 minutes.More information
After my first experience of flying Business last November, I had got the taste for this whole Premium Cabin thing.
Strangely enough it was a chance comment from a friend that was the opening to the rabbit hole. He mentioned about how he was taking his dad from London to LAX in BA First using Avios.
Now honestly I'd never really had a clue about miles, points etc and how the whole thing worked. Boy did I ever waste a lot of years! I'd always wondered how so many people could afford to pay the insane prices airlines charged for F and J. Little did I realise that many of those people were there for pennies on the dollar.
After diving into the whole scene full blooded I'd unlocked the key to do this on a big scale. So less than a year after starting I was able to put together a trip around Asia all in Business.
The YYZ-ICN-BKK flights cost 75,000 Aeroplan miles. The TPE-YYZ flight also cost 75,000 Aeroplan miles and for reasons I'm not entirely sure I understand I wasn't able to make my multi-city itinerary accept my return flight KUL-TPE-YYZ so I had to book KUL-TPE as a separate leg. This was highly annoying however the blow was softened by a 30% transfer bonus on my SPG points, so that effectively made the flight free in the end.
I used 15,000 BA Avios for the BKK-SIN leg on Cathay which is a crazy good value.
However my terrible luck bit me again on this flight which frankly I booked because it was on the A350-900 and I was yet to fly on one and with the rave reviews it was getting was to be a highlight of the trip for me.
Of course about 2 months before we left ExpertFlyer delivered the brutal news that there had been an aircraft change to an A330-300.
I was gutted especially when I checked EF and found that of the 30 days in September the A330 was operating on only 2 of them. The day after I traveled it was an A350-1000 which would have been even better. I thought long and hard about changing plans to fly a day later but it was just too much hassle. While my wife is nice and understanding even she has limits on how much she will accommodate my avgeekness!
The rest of the flights were cash bookings.
The most expensive flights was the SIN-KUL return on SQ. I originally booked in Y as the cost difference between Y and J was too much. However not flying in J was eating away at me and I started to wonder about how often I would get the chance to fly SQ J again and I buckled and upgraded the flights. It was crazy for a 50 minute flight, but our travel decisions are not always made with the head are they?
It ended up about $775 return.
KLM was about $390 for SIN-DPS, Garuda for DPS-CGK was about $260, Malaysian CGK-KUL-BKI was $330 and BKI-KUL was $190
*All prices per person in CAD
Flightaware and FR24 details
Airline: Garuda Indonesia
Flight Number: GA407
Departure: Denpasar Ngurah Rai DPS
Departure Time: 1221
Arrival: Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta CGK
Arrival Time: 1300
Flight Time: 01:39
Travel Date: Thursday September 20th
Class: Business Class
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
So some background. When I was looking at how to get from Bali to our next stop, Kota Kinabalu the most obvious choice was Malaysia Airlines. However they operate crappy 737-800s from DPS-KUL (At least they did, I believe its an A332 now) and that wasn't floating my boat.
I've been hearing amazing things about Garuda for some time now. It all seemed a bit hard to believe given not that long ago they were on the EU blacklist and not allowed to operate into the EU. It was for some time the poster child of a chaotic and out of control Indonesian aviation sector.
The rave reviews though have been consistent and the company has made a major effort to completely clean up its act. Of course its now back in the EU and also has a (worthless) Skytrax 4 star rating which they are incredibly proud of.
Given that Garuda have the World's best rated cabin crew, even ranked ahead of Singapore Airlines then I knew they had to be something special so my interest was piqued.
So I looked into Garuda to get back to KUL and their prices were not great, however just to CGK they were amazing coming in at an insane $260 CAD for Business on an A330. Bingo, we now had a winner! So Garuda it was to CGK then MH from CGK-KUL-BKI.
This would be a long day with 3 segments and even with a 3 hour layover in CGK this had the potential to go wrong as we were on seperate tickets. We also had a tight connection in KUL, so this first flight needed to go well. I need not have worried!
I think it would be fair to say Denpasar is not my favourite airport in the World.
After our less than stellar arrival experience it wasn't as bad on the way but it just doesn't seem to do much of anything very well but with one notable exception and that's Garuda rather than the airport.
Our car from the Laguna Bali resort took us back to the airport and fortunately I told the driver we would need dropping at the Domestic Terminal as he had probably fairly assumed we were going to the International one. The drive from the airport perimiter to the domestic side is an absolute maze. No way on Earth I would be able to find it if I were driving!
We were dropped off outside and immediately we were faced with a baggage screening checkpoint.
First time I had come across one of these before entering the airport building but I do know there are plenty of them around the World.
After we got through that we headed for the Garuda SkyPriority check in which was a really novel experience.
The SkyPriority check in is in a secluded little corner and it had 4-5 desks and some armchairs. We were asked where we were going and invited to hand over our checked bags and passports while we waited in the chairs.
After a few minutes we were handed our boarding passes and passports as well as our luggage tags and sent on our way with a bow and a smile.
Amazing! Seemed like a very First Class experience.
After more security we made our way to the Garuda lounge. Given what I had read about Garuda and how the check in went I was really excited to see what the lounge would be like. Well honestly my advice is don't even bother. What a massive let down.
The lounge is on 2 levels, neither of which are terribly big. Its a very compact lounge and it doesn't have much going for it.
We were there at breakfast time and the food selection was uninspiring and meagre. So much so we didn't bother.
There was free wifi and that was about it for amenities. We grabbed a couple of cans of coke and headed to the upstairs level where there was at least a view of the apron and runway.
We spent our time catching up online and relaxing before a long day ahead.
After a while I needed to visit the washroom. Now normally this would not be a noteable occurrence but in this case it turned into one.
There were no washrooms upstairs infact all that was upstairs was a fridge with soft drinks in it. So downstairs I went and into the mens room.
Now normally the mens room anywhere has at least 1 or 2 urinals and 1 or 2 stalls.
This washroom however had no urinals and a single stall which was occupied. Fantastic now I can't take a leak.
Irritated I returned upstairs and figured I would just have to wait a little.
After 5 mins I went back down only to find the stall still locked and very obviously in use.
My visit was now becoming more pressing so this time I waited downstairs. I couldn't help but feel that the washroom situation should be a little better here.
As the minutes went on the situation was getting urgent and still the washroom was occupied. I had now decided I had no other choice but to leave the lounge and find a toilet in the terminal area, when the door finally opened and I was able to go in.
Oh dear, I wished that I hadn't instantly. I can't begin to describe the odour that hit my nose except to say its something I never, ever want to experience again.
Anyway to sum up, do I blame a traveller for having an "issue"……..No absolutely not. But I can't understand who thought it was OK to have a single toilet in the main airline lounge at a hub airport.
As a Brit this amused me no end! As a kid I spent ages every Saturday in my local branch of WH Smiths looking at all the new books and magazines. I can't believe there is a WH Smith in Bali!
Bali Domestic Terminal
When it came time to board we made our way to the gate and found no airplane. There were signs directing passengers being put out though so I figured we had a bus gate and sure enough it was so.
What was awesome was that Garuda had a dedicated bus for J Class although as often happens it waited for other J pax to show up before leaving so one full Y Class bus left before us.
We arrived at the aircraft only to find it wasn't a remote stand but we had to exit the bus then climb stairs to board via jetways. I'm guessing the aircraft was at an International gate. It was a bit of a climb to the jetway in a bit of a narrow and winding stairway and of course there were a lot of people so it was very stop/start.
View of an adjacent A330-200 on our bus journey
As we entered from the dedicated J jetway into Door L1 we were immediately greeted with beaming smiles and hands together.
We were showed to our seats and already we were made to feel special with warm, easy conversation.
The cabin on this A330-300 was immaculate and looked wonderful with the interesting choice to go away from the Garuda palette of blue to a warm red.
The seats were the renowned reverse-herringbone in a 1-2-1 direct aisle access for all configuration.
A lovely soft pillow was at our seat
Again I knew beforehand that Garuda doesn't serve alcohol on domestic segments. It was a bit disappointing but overall didn't detract at all from the experience.
Soon after the purser brought warm towels and newspapers and asked about a pre departure drink of which the choices were water, orange and apple juice
By this point I had to remind myself I was on a 90 minute domestic flight. This level of service and experience is utterly incomprehensible for Europeans or North Americans. Can you imagine getting this from BA on a London-Zurich flight or from American Airlines on a Los Angeles-Denver leg?
What I loved too was the way that every interaction with the crew they would crouch down to talk to you at eye level. You actually felt like they were happy you were there and they were happy to be attending to us. The warmth and the genuineness was amazing.
I was already falling in love with Garuda and we hadn't even pushed back!
The seat was outstanding. Loads of legroom and the footwell was small but just enough. The table and TV were like the Air Canada ones on the 787 so the TV was available all flight and the entire seat area felt roomy and spacious.
There was a bit of a storage shortage though. Where on AC this space houses a large cubby here it just has the IFE handset. The latch to the left though did contain a smaller cubby which was enough to put my documents and phone and chargers into.
Here is the smaller storage cubby with power point, dual USB ports and the headphone jack
Seat and light controls on an easy to use touchscreen
Literature storage on the side
More storage in the seat arm. Took me a while to find this! Headphones were in here
Noise cancelling headphones were provided
Standard adjustable reading light
Beautiful high resolution touch screen monitor
We pushed back just a bit behind schedule but on time enough that I wouldn't have to worry about our connection.
We had a fairly long taxi to Runway 09 with a couple of stoppages for other pushing back aircraft as the layout at DPS means aircraft that push off stand go right onto the taxiway.
I was perfectly content though to hear the lovely hum of the Rolls Royce Trent's while sitting in my own little slice of Utopia. I really was loving the Garuda experience. And after a few nights in an amazing resort in Bali I had to take a moment to appreciate how fortunate I was. For a while all my little niggles faded into insignificance. Pure bliss.
Eventually we lined up on 09 at DPS and I knew all too soon this wonderful leg of our trip around Asia was coming to an end. We had loved Bali so much we began plotting a return before we had even left. It really is a beautiful place and it had grasped our hearts completely
Some taxi shots from my GoPro:
1: Pushing back with Garuda and AirAsiaX A330s next door
2: Singapore has a big presence at DPS with flights coming and going all day. Garuda, Malaysian and Jetstar also at the International Terminal
3: While we were waiting for the SQ A330 ahead to complete its push this AirAsia A320NEO rotated
4: During taxi a Lion Air 737-900ER landed
5: The SQ A330 lined up and ready to depart ahead of us
There used to be a beach just to the West of DPS airport that you could spot from, not unlike the famous beach at Sydney.
Sadly that spot is gone as there is a new taxiway under construction and what appears to be additional ramp space
As we aligned on the centreline the RR Trents spooled up with that magical noise and we were soon accelerating down 09 and off into the sky once more
Go Pro Takeoff Gallery:
1: Domestic Terminal and a Citilink A320 on taxi out
2: International Terminal
3: Goodbye Bali :(
4: The Mandala Toll Road, built completely over water
To say that service on Garuda is personal and warm is to do a disservice to the crew. Amazingly it never felt forced and the conversation came easily. The purser serving our side was a complete gem. I wish I got her name because she was just incredible in every way.
After take off the crew came around with linens and then our lunch and drinks.
There was no menu so no choice with the food, lunch was just brought out, but what a sight it was
It was a beautiful Indonesian beef dish and it tasted divine. A small salad starter and delicious, tender cake for dessert were all served on the same tray. Warm bread from a basket was handed out with a choice of various styles.
I took some water with dinner and proceeded to eat a very fine lunch
The crew also came around with a drinks service, so I grabbed a glass of coke, handed to me in a lovely branded glass
Lovely details. Attention to detail on Garuda is equal to anyone
After the dinner things were taken away I had a lovely tea
As is prominently displayed on the cabin wall this aircraft was fitted with inflight wifi and a really nice touch was that Business Class passengers with 15 minutes of unlimited free wifi. Not many airlines do this for Business Class and of course many of them even charge if you are in First which seems a bit poor to me.
The wifi was easy to connect to and fast. For the first time in my life I was now online on an airplane and I had time to post some shots to Facebook and catch up on some emails and news.
This really was an exceptional flight, the only problem was it was going to be over soon.
I kicked back the superbly comfortable chair and lounged around for a bit just taking all this in
I wasn't in the mood for watching anything on the IFE other than the map. It appeared that Garuda had a good choice of TV and movies but I can't say I looked too hard. Having done so much flying over the past 2 weeks I had already seen all the movies I wanted to see and I found there was a lot of repetition among all the airlines.
So the high res map was doing just fine for me!
Mother Nature's IFE was pretty good too
After the service was done the purser came around checking that everyone was doing fine and if there was anything she could get or do for any of us. We got chatting a bit about Bali and Indonesia and I talked about how I had booked this flight just to experience Garuda. Her face lit up, she was so happy and proud of her airline and then I mentioned to her about how I had heard Garuda had higher rated cabin crew than Singapore Airlines and complimented her on the fact that I agreed based on my experience.
Garuda are very proud of their rating. Given where the airline was I guess its hard to blame them. The turnaround has been spectacular
Unfortunately we were starting our descent into Soekarno Hatta Airport and this wonderful flight was going to come to an end.
Downwind for 07L and you can see the massive Terminal 3 now completely dominates the whole airport. Its an impressive structure
GoPro landing Gallery:
The approach was quite bumpy and it was clearly a windy day out there. Lots of thrust changes and while it would be a stretch to say we were being tossed around it was clearly quite turbulent and challenging conditions. I was expecting us to land with a thump.
However that was not the case at all. A perfect (almost!) flight ended with an absolute greaser of a landing with a barely discernible bump and gentle deceleration. One of the best landings I have ever had.
It was a short taxi to Gate 11 where we pulled up next to a company A332 just like we had left in Bali :)
The Garuda arrival experience for SkyPriorty travelers is a treat as well. No lugging heavy bags off the belt for us!
Garuda has an arrivals lounge at the baggage hall where you simply wait and relax while the bags are brought to the lounge.
After an impressively short wait we had our bags and were off to find the departures level to go check in with Malaysian after landing bang on time.
I really can't express how wonderful Garuda were, the whole experience apart from that dreadful lounge was something extraordinary.
I'd fly Garuda again in a heartbeat and would strongly urge any of you who might be put off by their chequered past to give them a go. This is a completely different airline that delivers service and an experience to rival any of its better known regional rivals.
I know I sound a bit like I'm raving, but it really was that good.
I remind you all again this was a 90 minute domestic flight and I paid little under $200 USD for all of this. Simply incredible, hats off to Garuda and thanks for one of my best and most memorable flights ever. I cannot wait to step on another Garuda flight again in the future.
We stayed our first night at the H Sovereign Hotel near the airport.
After the shambles with the car pick up we were hoping things would improve at the hotel. It seemed quite well rated and had a good amount of services.
Unfortunately the hotel is like the car pick up - a shambles.
In the room is a standard booklet with all the hotel facilities and amenities.
In the bar/restaurant section it mentioned the roof top terrace and bar being open until midnight. So as it was after 10pm we decided it would be nice to go up and have a drink.
Up the elevator we go and everything up there is locked shut. Go down to reception and ask and get told no there's no bar up there, but there is one about 10 minutes walk away where you can get a drink. Hmmmm OK then
Next morning the breakfast buffet was and I'm being polite here poor. After some of the great feasts we had seen in Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur this was a real disappointment. Only a couple of hot dishes were available and the quality was dire.
Service was non-existent from the wait staff. Seat yourself, get everything yourself, clean up after yourself etc I'm not really sure why they were there.
Anyway as we had to wait until 1200 for our transfer to arrive I went up to the rooftop pool to do some spotting.
Now this was nice!
On that level they had a salon/spa so my wife wanted to get her hair braided. She goes in and asks how much and they tell her, so as it was reasonable she went back to the room to get her cash. She goes in to have them do it only to be told she needs an appointment! My wife astutely noted that there was nobody actually in the salon at that moment, only to be told no she needs an appointment. Needless to say she left.
The hotel info book stated that the pool bar opened at 1100. Sure enough around 1030 a man showed up and started doing things there behind the bar. We were both thirsty as of course it was hot and so at 1100 my wife goes down to ask for 2 cokes. I see her walking back empty handed. The man told her the bar isn't open. She asks when and gets told 1200. The man proceeds to just stand around in the bar doing nothing other than modelling a very stylish hat.
Fortunately 1200 soon came and we could leave. Service at this hotel is completely non-existant and apparently their hotel info guide is about as much use as an umbrella in a Category 5 hurricane.
My advice, don't bother staying at the H Sovereign unless you only want to go plane spotting!
The one and about only good thing about this hotel is views like this:
Fortunately the Laguna Bali is a totally different ball game. This was one of the finest resort's we have ever been to and the service levels here were unbelievable and for more in line with what we were expecting from Balinese hospitality.
This amazing sculpture is just outside the airport
Car journey on the toll highway. The lanes to the left are for scooters. Note they also drive on the left here. Smart people ;)
In Nusa Dua
The Laguna Resort Bali. Its an SPG or should I say was an SPG property now sadly part of the Marriott empire
Lunch and a Bintang on the beach front restaurant. Heavenly!
You don't see this sign in hotels in Canada :D
We splashed out on a private villa for our stay. My God was it ever worth it. A quiet, serene heavenly retreat. We could have moved in to be honest!
The Garuda domestic lounge at DPS is a bit of a disaster to be honest. Worse than many 3rd party lounges and quite possibly the worst lounge we visited on our whole trip. It's so poor its almost not worth bothering with.
That however is where the bad news ends because Garuda themselves are stunning.
What we received for less than US$200 per person on a 90 minute domestic flight was remarkable.
We had a widebody A330 with lie flat seats and 1-2-1 all aisle access. We had a hot meal, hot towels, free newspaper, mutiple drinks service and full gate to gate IFE with noise cancelling headphones.
In North America you might get a soft drink and something from a snack basket and thats about it. Oh and it will also likely cost double if you are flying in Business or what is laughably called First.
Warm, caring and engaging service where you are treated almost as a guest in their home is a stark contrast to the "We are here for your safety" you find elsewhere with disinterested crew doing that bare minimum. Garuda make you feel important, valued and cared for and it was this level of service that really set the bar at another level for me.
T3 at CGK is a behmoth but we found it easy to negotiate and not at all busy while we were there, dare I say it was quite pleasant! Also loved the idea of the arrivals lounge where your bags are brought to you.
In conclusion I can't recommend Garuda highly enough.