The airline with the best average rating is Garuda Indonesia with 8.1/10.
The average flight time is 14 hours and 3 minutes.More information
Hello, and welcome to the continuation of this severely delayed flight-report series, covering a trip from Toronto to Bali on Delta Business Class and Garuda First Class and Business Class.
As explained on the DTW-LHR flight-report, this series is going to be a hybrid of my usual detailed style, and a decidedly less detailed approach for some sectors that I photographed, but failed to report.
This report is in the first category – I wrote it up as it happened or in the days that followed. And I'm glad I did, because it was a very memorable experience, and GA F is generally not covered all that often.
So let's get right into it, shall we?
Needless to say, this part of the trip was the main purpose of the trip. A while ago, Garuda offered a very attractive First Class fare between London and Bali, and having read absolutely amazing reports of GA F, I decided I had to give it a shot. The fact that I was able to get instant upgrades on relatively cheap Delta flights to Heathrow made the whole thing rather complete.
Two days before my departure, I receive an e-mail from Garuda’s First Class team in Jakarta, asking me a few details of my upcoming flight — what size pajamas would I like, do I have any dietary restrictions, and the details of my connecting flights. I also get a chance to ask some questions I have, and they’re promptly answered. Do they provide ground transits to Heathrow? They don’t. Do they provide a hotel for those forced into overnight transits at CGK? They do not. Will the First Class Lounge be open all night so I can just hang out there? Nope to that one, too.
Oh well. It was still a nice and personalized detail of Garuda’s overall First Class philosophy, and showed impressive formality, addressing me in each e-mail as “Dear Our Valued Customer Mr. HometoYYZ.”
Having crashed for the last 10 hours or so at the Hyatt Place, I made my way back to Heathrow at about 5:30, almost four hours ahead of the our 9:10 scheduled departure. After navigating the labyrinth between the central bus station at Heathrow and Terminal 3, I finally arrive on the scene at T3 about eight minutes before six.
The e-mail chain with the First Class team has already informed me that Garuda’s check-in is at the G position at Terminal 3, and when I enter through Door G, it is, indeed, right there. There are dedicated lanes for Business Class (red) and First Class (blue.)
At the entry to the First Class lane, I’m by a gentleman standing there if I’m flying First, and I say I am. I’m then asked my name, and the gentleman introduces himself as Sidney, and he’ll be escorting me to the lounge. Sid shows me to the First Class check-in, where formalities are quickly taken care of. I’m issued boarding passes all the way through to Bali, as well as a Fast Track card for use in Jakarta, I presume, in a nice little First Class folder.
Sidney insists on taking my carry-on bag for me, and we make some small-talk on our way to Fast Track security — he explains that he’ll be escorting me through security, to the lounge, and then he’ll come and collect me for boarding when it’s time.
It turns out he has family in both the suburbs of Toronto that my wife and I grew up in, so we talk about that a bit.
I learn that they were expecting four passengers in First tonight and that there’s been one last-minute buy-up to First, and he explains that there will be an attendant like Sidney for each of those booked-in-advance passengers. So take that, you last-minute upgraders! He explains that I’ll also be met on the ground in Jakarta and that when I come back through London on my way back, he or one of his colleagues will be there for me then as well. A nice guy, and an impressive bit of service offered by Garuda.
Sidney escorts me through Fast Track security — although I get my luggage back to go through screening since I have to be responsible for what’s in it.
After security, we make our way to the elevators up to the No. 1 Lounge, which is Garuda’s contract lounge at Heathrow.
At the desk, he returns my boarding pass folder to me, explaining that I should take it, in case I want to head out or walk around at any point prior to boarding. My boarding pass is scanned, and then photocopied, and they summon a lounge attendant to show me to The Club Room, a small room within the lounge that’s cordoned off for First Class customers — presumably only Garuda passengers.
Here, Sidney wishes me a nice stay, and reminds me he’ll be coming back to get me for boarding, between 8:15 and 8:30.
The Club room is a small space with about a dozen and a half seats, and it’s empty as I show in. There are quite a few power outlets, a “business centre” table, some reading materials on a table, and a PC for those who need or want it.
As I sit down, a waitress joins me and asks what I’d like to drink — I go with just a simple bottle of sparkling water for now, and she invites me to check out the menu, to see what I’d like to eat.
I hum and haw over the menu, and nothing is really grabbing me. But when she comes back, she says they also have a burger on offer. Sold! Definitely not “First Class” fare, but I haven’t eaten since the Egg Benny in the Revivals Lounge this morning, so I’m quite hungry, and it sounds like a good idea to me.
While I wait for my meal, I connect to WiFi — although my iPass client keeps disconnecting from the No.1 Lounge and connecting me to that BA lounge WiFi. Either way, it works well. And hey, look, the corporate shot reveals an interesting new First Class flight report, also featuring Jakarta. Hmmmmm….
Shortly, my burger arrives. It doesn’t look too impressive but it’s tasty and not at all overdone. There’s lots of tomato, and lots of good, salty British cheddar on it, but I don’t find any bacon. The “fries” are limp and fluffy, and lack crispness. But the little Greek salad with a yogurt-mint dressing is a nice surprise and a good touch. Overall, the burger really hit the spot — easing my hunger, but leaving me with plenty of room and an appetite for the post-departure First Class meal that awaits me after takeoff.
After my meal, I putter on my computer, doing some work and connecting with back home, as the lounge fills in. By 7:00, there are about seven people who’ve been escorted in — although two may be guests for F-class passengers. And then about 7:15, a gentleman wander in unescorted and takes a seat.
Despite the menu saying champagne was available for cost, it was being handed out to other passengers in the Club Room, so I figure, why the heck not? I’m not sure what was being poured, but it was decent, despite not being served nearly cold enough. Make your own British jokes here.
I putter for a while, and about 8:30, sure enough Sidney re-appears, and tells me they’re about to start boarding. Shortly behind him, his peers appear for my fellow passengers, and soon enough, we’re rounded up and on our way to the gate. Terminal 3 really shows her age as we’re walking through the halls along the way. Especially when I’m used to the very modern T2.
My fellow F passengers and I are gathered up in an area right by the boarding gate, as Sidney and some of his colleagues try to figure out why we’re not being allowed to board — because apparently to Garuda it is some sort of extremely unacceptable thing to leave F passengers sitting and standing around.
After a few minutes’ delay, we’re shown aboard — needless to say, the first passengers to board.
From: London Heathrow (LHR)
To: Jakarta (CGK)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
ATD (STD): 21:33 (21:10)
ATA (STA): 17:23+1 (17:30+1)
For this flight, I’m seated in 1A, because of course I am. It’s a bit seat in an enclosed suite with closing doors, nicely adorned and looking good.
IFE in the front wall is nice and large, and very bright.
While there was a passenger in 1K, the middle pair in row 1 would remain the only two unoccupied seats in F, providing quite a bit of a buffer between me and the only other passenger I could see on the plane.
On the outside wall of the pod, there’ a stationery kit and reading material, as well as the amenity kit.
The stationery kit is pre-equipped with arrival forms for Indonesia, as well as the password for free WiFi on the flight. It’s a nice touch that GA provides free WiFi for F passengers… not everyone does that.
Further back, menus, which we’ll give a look over in a minute.
Further back still, basic seat controls, and touch-screen controls to more fully control the seat.
And at the back, a rather large storage cubby that houses, in no particular order, a bottle of water, noise-cancelling headphones, IFE remote control, headphone ports, an S-video port (because why not?), and USB ports. The only thing missing, it would seem, is a power port. Hmmmmm… very strange.
Around this time, the purser — an older gentleman whose name I did not catch — pops by to introduce himself and welcome me aboard. Shortly after him, one of the two primary flight attendants with whom I worked also stopped by to introduce herself, and provided me an explanation of many of the features of the suite. I believe her name was Mahanami, or something like that — stupidly, I failed to write it down. I’ll refer to her as M, and apoolgize to her for my lapse in attention. Her colleague’s name proved a bit easier for me to remember — Sarah. At the end of our briefing, she proposes some champagne, and I accept her proposal.
Service from both women was excellent throughout. They were smiling, friendly, proactive, and delightful, consistently kneeled when addressing me, and always referred to me by name.
Let’s take a look at the menu, starting with the wine list.
And onto dining.
As I’m wrapping up my inspection of the menu, M reappears with a hot scented towel, some macadamia nuts, and a bottle of champagne. It’s GH Mumm, which you may not recall seeing on the wine list. I presume it’s the “on the ground” champagne, and I find it quite nice.
Sarah then appears, introducing herself, and setting out a little red carpet with slippers for me. It appears there’s some discretion on the whole take-off-your-shoes-for-you-and-put-on-your-slippers, as that service is not offered me. I put my shoes next to my backpack under the ottoman, but I see she carries away the shoes (on the red carpet) for other passengers, and stores them. As for the slippers, what can I say — I love them. They are far and away and without competition the best airline slippers I’ve ever seen, they fit just right for me, and are very comfortable. I’m keeping them, and I can imagine wearing them at home. I even break my usual “only after takeoff” rule and don them immediately.
When M sees I’ve finished my first glass, a second is quickly offered, and once agin accepted.
She also pops by with my pajamas, putting them in the closet int he front outer wall of the suite. But she gives a quick look at the XL pajamas I’d requested, and takes them away, reappearing with an XXXL set. “Indonesian sizes,” she explains. “They’d be no good for you.”
All this seems to happen so quickly, and about 25 minutes after I board, they announce that boarding is complete, and that we are out of here. Sarah pops by and stores my goodies for takeoff.
A look out the window as we prepare for pushback. It’s quite the hodge-podge of airlines at T3 these days, isn’t it?
Pushback, and our journey is underway.
The safety video plays.
And as soon as the lights are taken off for takeoff, the stars come out on the 777 ceiling, even though it’s not yet fully dark in the cabin.
It’s not a terribly long taxi, and by 9:30, we’re lining up for takeoff.
Between the dark and the rain on the windows, it’s really hard to get a good picture, so this wil have to pass as evidence that we did, in fact, get into the air.
The seat belt sign comes off right after we pass 10,000 feet — I appreciate that. Mind you, it would be left on for vast swaths of the flight when it really wasn’t necessary. But that’s the way it goes, I suppose.
As soon as I stand and take the pajamas out of my closet, Sarah comes charging down to meet me, and offers to set up the bathroom for me to change. A couple of minutes later, she tells me the lav is ready. Only one lav for F passengers on the 77W, which seems a bit sparse. There were a few times I had to wait to get in.
In the lav, my pajamas are hung up for me.
The lav itself is a pretty standard 777 behind-the-flight-deck lav, with some extra touches, such as the washcloths instead of paper towels.
There’s a fold-down bench over the toilet, which comes in handy for changing.
Amenities that I’ll never use.
Is anyone else a little bit weirded out by the “shared” mouthwash bottle?
The pajamas (in their expanded size, thanks M) fit well, and are light and quite comfortable. They’re very simple, in all black, with an embroidered (in black) Garuda logo over the heart.
Back at my seat, the mystery is revealed. I remove the documentation from this cabinet and reveal the missing power outlet. I knew there was no way they’d overlook that particular detail.
When I’m back for a minute or two, Sarah asks if I’d like her to hang up the clothes I’ve changed out of, and I reply that I simply hung them up in the closet. She seems aghast that she missed this service opportunity, but really, it’s not big deal.
M takes meal orders shortly after takeoff, walking me through the many choices involved in the main meal.
A look at the GA-branded noise cancelling headphones offered. They were good quality, and quite comfortable. The cord had a weird rope-like feel to it. I kept them on throughout the flight, and quite liked them.
I turn my attention to the IFE — first to flight information and the moving map
And then to actual IFE content. I found the “new releases” section a little light, and I’m probably going to have to go a little deeper on my return flight if I want to find anything interesting to watch.
I start with this period piece, which keeps me somewhat entertained throughout my meal, but is not outstanding.
Almost as soon as I’m back in my seat, M brings out the caviar service — we’re about 30 minutes off the ground at this point. She asks if I’ll be continuing with the champagne, and I agree that sounds like a good idea. To my surprise, it’s the Mumm again, although it appears once the bottle is done, the Taitinger is in play. The caviar is very good, although a bit of a small serving — but I’m fine with that. the creme fraiche and blinis work well with it, and the shrimp crackers are and interesting twist that’s an “only Garuda” thing. Credit to them for including a mother-of-pearl spoon.
When I’m done my glass of Mumm, I ask to sample the Billecart-Salmon Rosé. It is simply delightful and I love it and I want to drink more of it.
Killing some time before dinner begins, let’s take a look at the amenity kit. This little satchel is is inside the bag.
Contents are actually fairly basic, all things considered — body lotion and “face emulsion” from Hermes, earplugs, eyemask, a… glass cloth? (‘m not sure what that is), lip balm, brush, and dental kit. I ended up using none of it.
As I’m done exploring that, the massive table is taken out and set. It may seem like overkill, but the suit is designed with a seat belt on the ottoman, too, so that two may dine together should they so choose.
With exacting percision, M sets the table.
The bread basket is basic, but delicious, and offered quite hot.
My crab cakes come out first. They’re really quite excellent — much meat and not much filler. The salsa offered with it was also very good, and the pickled vegetables had some spice, and also were delicious.
Soup is presented next in the only time I would see the “onboard chef” on this flight. The bowl is presented with the noodles, veggies, and meat, and then the chicken broth is poured over it. This was a definite highlight, a broth with outstanding flavour between the salty chicken and a strong lemongrass quality. I really enjoyed it, and was tempted to ask for more. But there’s still so much food to come.
The pace of the meal was very personalized — there were people in the second row still getting their soup when I was on my cheese board — so my main was served almost as soon as I was done my soup. This dish was also very good. The lamb was maybe a bit overdone, but very tasty. The parmesan garlic risotto was fantastic, and the accompanying sauce added a nice, deep flavour. Very enjoyable.
Again, almost as soon as I was done, the cheese course was offered. The blue was a bit strong for my taste, but the cheddar and goat cheese were both fantastic.
Again, once done, my strawberry cheesecake dessert was quickly delivered. Simple, but very tasty.
With dinner over, I was offered coffee or tea, but I was feeling mighty sleepy at this point, and it was closing in on midnight, so I just asked for some peppermint tea for now.
Across the way, 1K is apparently already getting ready for bed.
A hot towel is offered to finish dinner.
M stops by after dinner is done with another bottle of water, and some snacks to accompany it. At this point, I’m so stuffed I can’t stand the thought of food. But it’s a nice touch that these are there should I be hungry through the night.
As I’m getting up to visit the lav, Sarah asks if I’d like my bed down, and I agree that seems like a good idea. By the time I come back, the bed is set with an extra pillow, a mattress pad, and a light but nicely-sized blanket. I make my way in, and Sarah closes the doors behind me. At a later point, I’d notice the flight attendants had closed the doors on both (empty) middle seats as well, making this place really, really private.
I make myself comfy, and put the end of the movie on. Actually, I end up sleeping through maybe the last 10 minutes. And much more. Although I found it warm on the plane upon boarding, and worried they’d keep it hot, I actually found the temperature overnight comfortably cool. M also asked if I was happy with the temperature at one point during the service pre-bedtime.
I wake up enough after the movie’s over to flip on the moving map, and we’re over the Black Sea.
The house lights are down, and the stars are out again. Time to get back to sleep.
Mission accomplished. I wake up a little more than five hours later, as we’re approaching the western shore of India. I figure this would be a good time to have a snack. I’m not really hungry, but I really want to try the satay. And maybe the shwarma. But instead…
I wake up another three hours later, as we’re approaching Malaysia.
Okay… we’re about 2.5 hours out of Jakarta. I think it’s definitely time to get up. I can hear the sounds of passengers around me having breakfast.
Almost as soon as I open my doors, the purser stops by with a glass of orange juice and a hot towel. The only time I’ve seen him since he introduced himself upon boarding. The OJ is so welcome on my oh-so-dry mouth.
There’s still enough time for a movie, and I feel like something light. As expected, it’s cute and fun.
My table is quickly set for breakfast.
The croissant is nothing special, but the pain au chocolat is just a delight.
The fruit is nicely presented, but nothing particularly special.
And the yogurt is… well… yogurt.
Coffee with a French press. Good coffee no less. Such a nice good morning treat.
And finally, the main course — some seriously good nasi goreng. Everything is good here, but the rich and spicy beef is the best part of the meal. And again, the pickles are so vibrant and delicious.
I finish breakfast with a cappuccino, which is also very good.
After breakfast, I change back into my street clothes, and stow my pajamas and slippers in my carry-on starting to get ready for arrival into Jakarta.
I putter a bit on WiFi. I never did get the provided WiFi code to work, but since I currently have an iPass account, I’m able to connect directly anyway. The WiFi is reasonably fast. Hey look… another corporate shot!
Meanwhile, out the window, it’s looking like a nice late afternoon.
We’re getting close.
With everything secured, we start making our final approach. We’re pretty low by the time we break through the clouds.
And here we are. Jakarta.
Taxiing past the old terminal.
A lineup of narrowbodies.
A GA 737 waiting to take the runway as the sun hangs red low in the sky.
Another GA 737.
Another 737 — this time a Sriwijaya Air bird.
A GA 737 takes to the air.
And lest we think it’s all 737s all the time here, a new A320 for contrast.
And a 330-200.
My first look at the massive an impressive new terminal at CGK, which has opened since I was through Jakarta most recently.
Smart use of the double-bridge gate to house a pair of 737s if there isn’t a widebody to use it.
And we have arrived.
M, Sarah, the purser and everyone else wish us all goodbyes, and thus ends that fantastic service experience, at least for about two minutes. Stepping off the plane from door one, I’m greeted by one of a group of young men in Garuda’s sleek black First Class ground services uniform. He greets me, introduces himsef as Afi (at least that’s how I heard it…) and takes my bags, explaining that he’ll see my through customs, over to domestic, and to the domestic business class lounge. One look at my ride before we go.
My dominant impressions of the new terminal is how big it is, and how empty it is. I’m sure this was just a quiet time, but honestly, it seemed like we were the only international flight arriving. There was just nobody else to be seen anywhere. Almost surreal, like something you’d see out of the Pyongyang airport, except super-sized on steroids.
Afi makes small talk, asking how long I’m in Indonesia, and expressing surprise when my answer is “three days.” He says the terminal has been open about a year, and it’s mostly Garuda “and five other airlines.” I’m guessing it’s the SkyTeam crew, although I’d think there’d be more SkyTeam flying into CGK than that — offhand, I’d think Air France, KLM, China Eastern, China Southern, Korean, China Airlines, and probably others?
Customs takes no time at all, with Afi taking my passport and arrival card and “handling” it for me. No questions are asked, and my passport is stamped. This is certainly a much more friendly — in every way — arrival than my last arrival into Jakarta.
As we make our way through the (empty) baggage hall, Afi apologizes for the long walk to the domestic terminal. And it is a bit of a hike, but after a few changes of floors, we find ourselves in the departure hall of the domestic terminal.
And that’s where we’ll pick up the story for the next flight.
Thanks for joining me for this wonderful adventure, and I hope you’ll join me as we complete the journey into Bali.
Having read some reviews, I had high expectations of my Firs Class experience with GA. I was certainly not disappointed. Good catering, a great seat, and especially fantastic service. Garuda pays a lot of attention to the little things, and it pays off. On all their planes, there’s a plaque noting that GA has been named best cabin crew of the year by SkyTrax three years in a row, including 2017. It shows in the premium-cabin service they provide. I look forward to my flight back to London in a few days for even more amazing memories.