Background: While many major airlines in the world are doing away with their First Class, Garuda Indonesia has reintroduced its First Class after at least 18 years of hiatus. This is definitely a bold move by the new management of the airline which has been working very hard to transform the airline into one of the bests in the world with its Quantum Leap program. Along with the reintroduction of the new First Class, the airline is also upgrading once more its services in both the ‘Executive’ Business Class and Economy Class on selected routes served by its new B77W and A330. Garuda is now aiming to become one of Southeast Asian premium airlines alongside SQ, MH, and TG.
Garuda is not the only airline selling a non-stop First Class service to NRT from CGK. JAL has been serving CGK for years now with its newest B77W offering its latest First Class product as well. So, there must be a demand for a premium service between the 2 cities. The following is the trip report which I hope can best represent my experience onboard Garuda Indonesia’s New First Class service.
The Pre-Flight: Having made my booking, I was provided with an email address and a phone number to call should I need to organize any limousine service to the airport on the day of travelling. This service is currently available only for those who reside in and around the Jakarta metropolitan area. This service can be arranged anytime to up to 24 hours before our flight. I called the number on the morning of the 4th and organized my transport easily. However, due to some last minute changes of my schedule in Jakarta, I ended up cancelling the airport limousine transfer and having my friend dropped me off the airport instead. I did inform GA about this last minute changes and I was advised to go to the special drop off point designated for its First Class passengers.
Upon arrival at the special drop off point for First Class passengers, I was greeted by a butler and a First Class assistant. The butler was quick with handling my luggage and the First Class assistant ask for my travelling documents. They then accompanied me all the way to the First Class lounge. This was still a temporary lounge that Garuda had rented from Emerald Sky. Garuda’s own lounge in CGK was still closed for renovation and was scheduled for completion in November 2013.
In the lounge, where I was the only passenger that evening (Yes, I was flying solo in F and the fact that this is the only GA flight with F at the moment), I was greeted and quickly attended by the lounge attendant. The First Class assistant excused herself politely because she needed to help me with the travelling documents. She then left the lounge to handle my travelling paperwork.
The lounge attendant then got into a full swing by asking if I would like to order anything to eat pre-flight. I was impressed when he handed me a menu that was actually quite extensive. I went ahead and ordered a lobster bisque for my soup and a wagyu tenderloin as a main. For drink, I went ahead with my favorite ginger ale. He was happy that I did order something to eat and then left the lounge to prepare. The First Class assistant then came back in with my boarding pass and my passport all stamped and ready. She then asked if I would like to have an early or late boarding. I told her early. She told me that the butler and she would come back to accompany me to the plane once the flight was ready to board.
Everything had happened so quickly and I had been so impressed so far with such a god like treatment from the staff and GA that I had forgotten to take my camera out to snap a few pictures for my reports. My first picture to start off this trip report is the lounge menu:
The lounge attendant came back in with my ginger ale and an amuse bouche which is a vegetable spring roll:
“This amuse bouche is for your enjoyment while you wait, Mr. SQGAKL,” said the lounge attendant
My lobster bisque came not long after:
The lobster bisque was actually quite delicious but it was not hot enough temperature wise. It was the feedback that I had given to the lounge attendant when he asked me what I thought of the soup. He was happy to take any feedback from me and he seemed very eager to serve only the best.
Then came my wagyu tenderloin and the mashed potato that accompanied the main dish:
My wagyu was a bit overcooked for me and I was also quite full already because I had a proper dinner with friends in town before I left for the airport. So, I didn’t finish it. The lounge attendant seemed concerned at first but felt better after my explanation. He then brought me some cut fruits and told me they would help me with my digestion. Despite being full, I finished the fruit platter because it was too irresistible. He then went on and asked me to send my best to a friend of mine who had flown out the night before. That was a nice gesture.
My cut up fruit platter:
I then left to use the bathroom which is temporary located outside of the lounge in the public area. What I didn’t expect was that one of the First Class lounge attendant actually waited for me in front of the bathroom with hot towels and some hand moisturizer for me to use when I came out. I was really taken aback with this. I guess this was to make up for no private bathroom in the current make shift lounge. Kudos to GA for trying so hard to impress and so far I had been very impressed with the service rendered and the service attitude of the First Class staff to me.
As soon as I came back to the lounge, the First Class assistant and the butler were ready with my luggage and they were ready to accompany me to board my first First Class Experience flight with Garuda Indonesia.
The First Class Flight: At the end of the aerobridge just before the door 1L, the First Class assistant handed me officially to the purser.
“Welcome aboard, Mr. GASQKL!” greeted the purser in dark blue Kebaya. “2K is on the other side.” “Welcome aboard, Mr. GASQKL! Let me show you to your seat” said Lia, the F Maitre D’Cabin in Lavender Kebaya to me. “Welcome aboard!” greeted the onboard chef, Dani, from the galley as we walked past the galley.
The butler who had helped me with my carry-on luggage also helped me store it in the compartment above 2F. There are 4 overhead compartments on Garuda’s B77W First class cabin and all 4 of them are located above the 4 middle seats. There is no overhead compartment above the aisle seats.
“Welcome aboard, Mr. GASQKL!” Santri who donned the orange Kebaya greeted me as we were approaching my seat. It was Santri who would be performing all the in-flight services later that evening to Narita, Tokyo.
“Thank you for flying First Class tonight, Mr. GASQKL!” said the F Maitre D’Cabin to me as soon as I was fully settled on my seat. “My name is Lia and I will be over seeing the service in the First Class section tonight. Together with me, there is Santri our senior crew member, Dani Eliasa, our onboard chef, and our purser working in this cabin tonight. First of all, let me explain some functions of this seat for you. “ “Here is your control panel monitor. All the seat functions can be controlled here,” as Lia pointed out to the little touch screen monitor on the side panel of the seat. “Thank you. I think I should be fine with the seat and all its functions. Don’t worry,” I replied.
“We have the menu and the drink list as well as some reading materials for you here,” Lia showed me the row of nicely organized folders and magazines decked out on the side panel of the seat. “And here is your amenity kit,” she pointed out to the black color right next to the menu folder. “In this cabinet here, you will have your headset and also 2 bottles of mineral water. You will find an electrical outlet in another smaller cabinet to the front should you need to charge your electronic device,” said Lia as she was explaining the best she could about the new suite. “There is also another bottle of mineral water in that cabinet, too.”
I thanked Lia for explaining the seat to me and she told me to let her know without hesitation should I have any question.
Santri was then walking towards me from the galley.
“Hello, Mr. GASQKL. How are you? My name is Santri and I will be serving you tonight,” Santri introduced herself to me and she also handed me a hot towel on a special towel tray. “What do you want to drink, Mr. GASQKL?” asked Santri. “We have juices, beverages, and Champagne.” “I would like the Champagne, thank you.” “Which one? Billecart-Salmon or Laurent-Perrier” “Billecart-Salmon, please.” “Sure. I will be right back,” replied Santri to me and quickly she went back to the galley.
Soon enough, she was back with a tray that contains a bottle of Billecart-Salmon, a champagne flute, and a small plate of macadamia nuts. She then placed the napkin coaster on the side panel of my seat, the champagne flute on top of it, and poured the bubbly out to the flute. “Do you want to taste it first, Mr. GASQKL?”, she paused a quarter way through pouring. “I am OK. I am sure it will be fine.” I assured her before she continued pouring until the flute was quite filled up. A plate of Macadamia nuts was then placed next to the glass of bubbly champagne.
“Enjoy, Mr. GASQKL.”
As I was enjoying my glass of Champagne and the nuts and at the same time trying to reflect of all the right things that had happened so far since I had stepped onboard, Santri reappeared again next to me and this time she actually lowered herself and kneel down next to my seat.
“Mr. GASQKL. Do you want to change your shoes out with slippers to make your feet more comfortable? “ “Sure”
She then gladly laid a red cloth the size of a foot mat on the floor in front of my seat and then put a pair of nicely padded slippers for me. As I took off my shoes, she quickly put my shoes into a nicely cream colored GA shoe bags and stored them inside the wardrobe cabinet on the front side of my suite partition.
‘WOW’… that’s what registered in my mind at that moment. What an experience! Garuda is really trying to treat its First Class passengers as royalties here. I expected to be handed a pair of slippers only but I didn’t expect the crew to help out in the process and to have such a ‘First’ class treatment for passengers and their shoes. Kudos to you, Garuda! Does anyone know if the Queen of England has someone to change her shoes for her?
She then went back to the galley and soon after reappeared again with a comfortably looking pajama on the hanger.
“Do you want to change into your sleepers now?” “Not now. I will probably do it later.” “Ok. Let me hang them and store them in the wardrobe cabinet for you first for when you are ready.”
She then kneeled down once more and took my after take-off drink order.
“Mr. GASQKL, what do you want to drink after take-off? We will have a caviar service. Do you want to continue with the Champagne? Or you would prefer something else?” I thought for a while and I said, “I would like some Japanese tea.” “Great. I love Japanese tea too. Which one do you like? Have you had a chance to look at our drink list here? We have four selections of Japanese tea and they are all very good,” Santri said it with a certain pride in her voice. “My favourite is genmai cha,” she then continued. “I like genmai cha too but I think I will go for something else first,” I replied and I quickly went through the menu and said, “I will try the Gyokuro.” “Sure. So, it is the Gyokuro.”
The plane was then pushed back on time from the gate. The cabin was then secured for take-off after the safety video was played. CGK was slow after about 22:30 every night so that night was no different either and we quickly taxied to the runway and took off. We were soon reaching our cruising altitude and the cabin service began.
Santri came out from the galley with a tray on her hands. I could see her carrying a very nice pot of tea. Once she reached my seat, she set the tea set up properly on the side service area next to my seat. I really like it when an airline pays attention to such details in term of providing the best services to its customers.
Santri then went back to the galley and reappeared very quickly with another tray. This time it was the caviar. Despite being a proper caviar service with blinis and crème fraische, Garuda is adding an Indonesian twist to its caviar service by having Kerupuk (Indonesian prawn crackers) as additional optional condiment to caviar.
“Here is the caviar, the blinis, and the crème that our chef Dani has prepared.” Santri pointed out at each item as she was explaining it to me. “We also have kerupuk here to eat with caviar.” “Wow, that’s something different and new to me.” “Give it a try, Mr. GASQKL. I am sure you would like it.”
Surprisingly, the kerupuk went very well with caviar and the cream. I really enjoyed them.
“Mr. GASQKL, we are serving our In-Between Fuel menu. What do you want to eat after the caviar service? We will serve breakfast only prior to our arrival into Tokyo.”
As I mentioned earlier, I was actually quite full that night as I had lots to eat in town with friends before I headed out to the airport. Then, there was also the big feast in the lounge for the sake of sampling what Garuda First Class Experience is like. So, I declined.
“But just in case you want anything to eat before breakfast, please let me know.”
She then left me enjoying my caviar experience under some twinkling stars. While I was enjoying my caviar with blinis and kerupuk, the purser of the flight came to me to thank me for flying with Garuda. She then handed me an envelope with a complimentary WiFi password and username that I can use in-flight. It is the latest addition to Garuda’s latest improvement in its cabin product. Garuda has not yet officially commercialized this service to all its passengers. It is now available only for its First Class passengers. The plan is that First Class passengers will continue to enjoy this facility for free while the other 2 classes will have to pay a certain fee to use this facility. She told me to provide her any feedback so her team and Garuda can continue to improve. She thanked me again for flying First Class with Garuda that night before she disappeared to the Executive Business Class section behind me.
Santri came back as soon as I finished my caviar. She asked if I had enjoyed the caviar and the kerupuk to which I replied yes. She then cleared the caviar tray and came back to check the tea pot. As the tea was running out, she asked if I would like to have another pot. I told her I would like another one but this time it would be the genmai tea instead. She gladly took my tea pot and my cup away and came back with a different pot of genmai tea to serve me. Soon after she set the tea pot up on the side service area, she asked what I wanted to have for breakfast. The breakfast menu was quite extensive which consists of Indonesian Breakfast, Japanese Breakfast, and European breakfast. I went for the European style breakfast with poached eggs and all the breakfast side dishes. After taking my order, Santri asked if I was ready to turn in.
“Are you tired now, Mr. GASQKL? Do you want me to set up your bed for your now?” “Sure” This is how she did it.
A layer of nice foam padding on the seats
A new bigger pillow and nice duvet for a more comfortable sleep
Before turning in, I decided to visit the toilet first and changed into my pajamas. I slept for at least a good 4 hours and only woke up as we were flying above Okinawa and only about 1 and a half hours before our arrival into NRT.
“Good morning, Mr. GASQKL! Did you have a nice sleep?” “Morning. Yes, the sleep was good.” “Are you ready for breakfast yet or you want to wait for a while?” “I think I am ready to eat now. Yes.” “Before that, what would you like to drink? We have different kind of juices.” “Can I have orange juice, please?” “Certainly,” Santri answered.
Soon after, the orange juice arrived. This is how Garuda serves orange juice for breakfast to its First Class passengers. A true 5* style!
I then went to fresh up and on my way, I saw the Dani, the onboard chef, preparing fresh eggs for my breakfast. Upon back to my seat, Santri came over and set up my table for breakfast.
“Mr. GASQKL, do you want a sparkling or a still mineral water?” “Sparkling, please” Very quickly, she came back with a bottle of San Pellegrino and started to pour away. “Any tea or coffee for you?” “Genmai cha for me”
Then she came with a bread basket and selections of jams, olive oil, and butter. The ‘Red berries and mango, cinnamon splash, and almond sable’ fruit platter arrived not long after.
The fruit platter was amazingly fresh and sweet.
My poached eggs and all the side dishes soon were served. Beef bacon could not make it as a bacon replacement as it doesn’t have the fat and the taste. The cured salmon strips were very savory and tasty instead.
The poached eggs were fine but slightly overcooked and as usual quite tasteless as poached eggs should be. The reason I ordered poached eggs because they are usually the hardest one to get right. I later learned from one frequent flyer who flew out on the same flight the night before that the omelet he ordered was very good and slightly better than the one he was usually served by the World’s 5* airline from a neighboring country. The French toast was apparently also very good according to the same source.
The dessert followed to conclude the full European Breakfast service.
Hot towel was then handed out and placed on the on the side of the seat. Throughout the flight, hot towels were provided after every meal service.
We were only about less than 30 minutes before arrival by the time breakfast service was over. So, I decided to change back into my shirt. Upon arriving back to my seat, my seat was already tidied up for landing by the crew. On the floor in front of my seat were my shoes placed on the red cloth. Santri must have placed them there for me already so I could change back into my shoes. As soon as I put my shoes back on, Santri came over and collected the red cloth as well as the slippers. I then asked Santri for the menus because I collected them. She happily gave them to me after she had removed them from the leather folder.
The cabin was then secured for landing. Santri thanked me for flying with Garuda. Lia, the Maitre D’Cabin then came to thank me for flying First Class and hoped that I had enjoyed the Garuda Indonesia First Class Experience with them. She asked if I had any disappointment with the product and the way the service had been carried out. I assured her that everything was fine and that I had received a true 5* service from her and the team.
We soon landed about 30 minutes earlier than our scheduled arrival time and our gate was on the North Wing of Terminal 1. Terminal 1 serves all the SkyTeam airlines with the exception of China Airlines. We parked right next to PK-GIA which was the first GA 77W that joined the Garuda’s fleet in June. PK-GIA had arrived about 15 minutes earlier from DPS.
The wonderful First Class crew of Garuda Indonesia: Lia in her lavender Kebaya, Dani the chef back in his suit, and Santri in her orange Kebaya.
The Arrival: As soon as the door was opened, I was greeted by a First Class assistant at the aerobridge. Although Hasumi-san works for a meet and greet company that has been contracted by Garuda Indonesia, her service was of a really high standard. She insisted on pulling my carrying on luggage for me and assisted me through the whole arrival process. Just before we cleared customs, however, I realized that I had left my First Class amenity kit and the menus for the flights (2 days later, this will become one of the highlights of my flight) either on my seats or on the sink in the toilet as that was where I had been before deplaning. I blurted out my frustration to Hasumi-san. She told me to wait for her. She actually ran back to the plane to try to retrieve them for me. However, as the plane had been cleaned for the next departure, she was not allowed to get back to the plane. She felt so apologetic when she was back to arrival hall to meet me. Although I told her not to worry, I couldn’t help but to feel quite upset for being so careless. Hasumi-san continued to accompany me all the way to the train station to buy Narita Express train to Shinjuku and then waved and bowed good bye to me at the train automatic gates area.
Emerald Sky Lounge
Jakarta - CGK
Tokyo - NRT
Garuda has indeed a great First Class product with the best First Class cabin crew. However, ex-CGK catering, Garuda really needs to work on its bread. Otherwise, my breakfast could have been almost perfect. I decide to rate the Entertainment an almost perfect 9.5 because Garuda offers a free unlimited WIFI for its First Class passengers.
Since Garuda's own lounge is still under renovation, Garuda has contracted a temporary lounge area as its F class lounge from Emerald Sky. While the lounge is nothing like a First Class lounge, the service and the staff attitudes in the lounge are indeed First Class. Garuda's owned lounge is scheduled for completion by November and will feature its own spa.
As for the Security / Immigration efficiency at CGK, I was accompanied all the way through to the lounge upon my arrival at the airport while the First Class Assistant and Butler were handling all the immigration paperworks and my luggage for me. Thus, I rate it as a 10 for this flight.
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