Review of Garuda Indonesia flight Tokyo Denpasar in Economy

Airline Garuda Indonesia
Flight GA881
Class Economy
Seat 35H
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 07:55
Take-off 10 Aug 14, 11:00
Arrival at 10 Aug 14, 17:55
GA   #53 out of 121 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 201 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 9104
Published on 14th September 2014
This is the second leg in my vacation in Indonesia:

CDG - NRT : Air France (Boeing 777-300ER) Sunrise
NRT – DPS : Garuda Indonesia (Boeing 777-300ER) The island of Gods
DPS - JOG : Garuda Indonesia (Boeing 737-800) The city of the Ramayana (English version to be posted)
JOG - SUB : Sriwijaya Air (Boeing 737-800) A zero height volcano (English version to be posted)
MLG - DPS : Wings Air (ATR72-600) The sulfur volcano (English version to be posted)
DPS – ICN : Garuda Indonesia (Airbus 330-300) The calm of the morning (English version to be posted)
ICN – CDG : Korean Air (Airbus 380-800) Bad flight (English version to be posted)

The previous FR ended at the Skyteam transfer desk in NRT which remained desperately empty while I completed the plane spotting started earlier, including a GA tail (or telltale).

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Also this aircraft,

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… in front of a Polar freighter 747

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Splashing landing of an SAS aircraft in the background

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I had to ask to several staff to learn that my connecting flights' BPs would not be issued at the transfer desk, but at the counter of the boarding gate.

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This staff displays quintessential Japanese politeness and delivers me the BPs for the next two flights: no window seat being available for the flight to DPS, she gives us two seats across an aisle. It was impossible to choose seats for the GA flights on the internet, and it was impossible to obtain the BPs at the check-in in CDG: we only have the leftovers. On the other hand, I do get a window seat for the last flight, but that will be of limited interest, that being a night flight.

She confirms that the checked luggage will have to be recovered in DPS and checked in again for the last leg of the journey. The reason is obvious: they will have to go through customs in DPS, because JOG is not organized for a customs check of luggage coming from abroad by a domestic flight. On the other opposite, if you fly for instance on PEK-CDG-TLS, your checked luggage will be delivered in a separate room in TLS, with custom officers at the exit.

She also tells me that I can buy here my Indonesian visa on arrival, which would save me waiting in line in DPS before going through immigration (it was going to be even better than expected, as I'll describe later). Cash only: 35 USD or 3610 JPY. I do not have a single bill in these currencies, but she gives me the direction of an exchange booth, somewhat far away in the same terminal. Be back at 10am with the appropriate amount in cash.

A long stroll on a travelator…

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… quite a number of people waiting at the foreign exchange booth; I ask at a local information counter if there would be an ATM somewhere ? It was well hidden, but I could have seen it from the travelator if I had not been looking at the planes outside.

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This ATM only delivers 10,000 JPY banknotes

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… and I bring one to the staff when she is back at gate 17. She leaves with it, and I go back to me seat next to Mrs. Marathon who wonders if I often give cash to a staff anywhere without receiving any semblance of a receipt. We are in Japan…

There are type B power plugs here and there, at ground level

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… and at eye level,

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… with the bonus for the eyes of the proximity two FAs of the flight that I am going to board

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That provides me the opportunity to recharge my laptop which I'll use during that flight, and to take a picture of the traditional corporate screenshot. Contrary to what I read in a recent FR ex-NRT (maybe from another terminal?), there is a free wifi internet access.

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Let's go to the toilets

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… which are of course spotless, with minor but so convenient baby care details, like these baby seats in the toilets, including in the male section. Japan is far ahead of most other countries in this regard.

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There are also toilets seats with washlets which the Japanese are so fond of, and that I hardly ever saw in any other country.

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It is so simple and easy to install: a dress room which is no other than a room with a full height mirror, a stool and a few clothes hooks to save passengers the trouble of changing clothes in a too narrow toilet booth where the surfaces can be wet.

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A perfectly orderly line has appeared for boarding the KLM flight

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… in that 744

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It is now our turn. The priority passengers board first, but there are very few of them: this is a vacation flight, with very few passengers in J, and there must be very few Japanese FB Elite+ status holders, since there is no Japanese airline in Skyteam.

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Rank and file passengers board next, by zone …

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…but the PA is hard to understand, no matter the language, and the passengers who created a long and orderly line cannot see this screen.

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The result is that nobody budges and several staff go along the line to encourage passengers of rows 39-52 to bypass the others, which no Japanese would dare do without a good reason. Meanwhile, the staff to whom I had given 10,000 yen looks for me, and brings me two vouchers for a visa on arrival, and the change (I'm sure to have the opportunity to use JPY in the future). They are duly stamped USD 35 = JPY 3610: no problem.

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There are Indonesian newspapers in the jetbridge, and I discovered when preparing this report that there was a copy of the Wall Street Journal.

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A glimpse of the business class, in a staggered 1-2-1 layout

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… and of the economy class in a 3-3-3 layout

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One seat fewer across the width of the aircraft compared to AF's 3-4-4 layout translates into an extra four centimeters in width between the armrests, and that is the difference between a seat which is too narrow and a comfortable seat. Mrs. Marathon felt that immediately, even before noticing the seat diagram.

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The seat pitch is OK too

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There is a total of two multistandard 110V power ports and three USB plugs under each set of three seats.

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The IFE ridicules that of AD, in size and in quality

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There is a remote control in the armrest

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A general view of the cabin from the rear

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Having an aisle seat, I am two seats away from the window, which is also not ideally located with regards to the row of seats, and the wing is also in the way. Some makeshift plane spotting with an ANA 787

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… and these two planes parked at the terminal

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There will be no pictures of the landscape on the way, because not only is this flight nearly entirely above water,

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… but my two Japanese neighbors are the kind of travelers who book a window seat only to close it.

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When she was requested to raise the shade before landing by the FA, this passenger obeyed, only to replace it by makeshift means, to be shielded from the sunlight. I had never seen something like that!

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Let's go back to the cabin comfort: the FAs distribute an amenity kit, which only contains a pair of in flight socks and a face mask, in a zipped bag which I find the most useful item.

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… and then a welcome drink

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… and some peanuts

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And this menu

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Bad luck for Mrs. Marathon: there is no Indonesian menu left when the cart reaches our row, and curry is one of the few Japanese dishes that she does not like, maybe because it is not a native recipe.

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Note the presence of metal silverware (a very cheap type) and reusable chopsticks of acceptable quality.

Wing view in cruise

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The FAs distribute quite early in the flight the customs and immigration forms, and there is a good reason for that.

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The Japanese around us all seem to have an explanation on how to fill these forms in their tour books, but there is one in the in flight magazine too. I asked for and obtained a customs form in English, instead of the Indonesian version that I had received.

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These forms join my virtual collection of Asian forms which are completely unfit to the case of François Alexandre Dominique Marathon, born in Bécons les Bruyères, and holder of a passport delivered in the city of Préfecture de Police: the space devoted to each piece of information is dramatically undersized. I have to manage with that, but no employee has ever rejected a form where I scribbled my vital data out of the prescribed area.

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The toilets are clean. GA offers some toothbrushes to its economy class passengers.

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… and there are five temperature settings for the water, which is more convenient than a hot and a cold lever.

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Pictograms on the baby care table (for by women exclusively) explain how to use the toilet seat

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… and other pictograms on both sides of the toilet seat cover recall what you should not do with (or without) the said toilet. I was therefore careful to be courteous to other passengers.

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For safety card addicts, this is the thing. The plastic lamination makes it difficult to avoid reflections.

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The in flight magazine includes interesting features. Like for instance this double in Indonesian only which does not propose relaxation exercises, but the fine art of doing your Muslim prayer in a plane. It is somewhat off target on an NRT-DPS flight, since 95% of the Balinese population is Hindu whereas Indonesia at large is massively Muslim.

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I cannot accuse GA of bigotry. Quite on the contrary, they address the passengers of all creeds (a commendably selection of them, at least) in suggesting them prayers to their favorite god in a double page called Invocations.

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You can set your mouse wheel to fast forward mode, for Garuda takes into consideration no fewer than six religions for proposing appropriate prayers when flying:



All these prayers are bilingual (Indonesian / English), but for the Muslims, the Buddhists, the Hindu and the Confucians, there is a phonetic transcription of Arabic, Hindi and Mandarin, respectively. Note that the Confucian prayer is outrageously reduced in Mandarin above, and that the Muslims also have the original Arabic version.

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I do not mind prayers for the pilot and the aircraft, as long as they are not a substitute for training and maintenance, respectively.

Some mild turbulences were not enough to criticize the values of the prayers of the passengers on our flight. The FAs did not object to passengers moving around when it became obvious that the captain had forgotten to switch off the seat belts sign.

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Did you notice that the receipt for our visa bore a Tokyo immigration on board stamp? Yes indeed, these are two Indonesian immigration policemen who are going down the aisle, with their paraphernalia on a trolley, doing the immigration procedure for each and every passenger on board the aircraft !

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Incredible but true: they flew over twelve hours round trip for this only! And they also do it with a smile.

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The result is that instead of waiting in line in DPS, each passenger receives his passport stamped with a visa on arrival exactly as if it had been delivered in DPS (Ngurah Rai), and a plastic card which will serve as a pass at the airport.

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My Japanese neighbors went to the toilets, which allowed me to raise the window cover and see this.

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Distribution of a tiny Haägen Dazs vanilla ice cream and a drink – coffee for me.

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Mood lighting during the descent towards DPS

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On the left side of the partition between the two Y cabins, this pictogram reminds passengers that there is an internet access by wifi on board. It is for free in F, but it does not come cheap in the other classes: 11.95 USD per hour or 21.95 USD for 24 hours in a 77W (the fares are by data volume in their A330s).

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On the right hand side of the same partition, …

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… this sign reminds that GA received a prize for the best economy class.

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GA insists a lot on that; see the welcome screen of the IFE when we boarded the aircraft. No matter what your opinion is with regards to the rankings produced by Skytrax, I think that this particular award is justified.

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I saw nothing of the crossing of the east end of Bali, since my Japanese neighbor kept trying hard to hid the landscape.

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A view of the J cabin while leaving the aircraft .

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No jetbridge: transfer buses are waiting, which makes it possible to take pictures of the aircraft. The temperature is pleasant and I enjoy getting some fresh air.

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The buses start as soon as there are a few standing passengers on board.

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A Wings Air ATR72 seen on the way

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That is where we get the full value of the in flight immigration procedure: you see here the long waiting line at the standard immigration counters, whereas we take a side channel where we only need to give the light blue plastic card without even stopping in front of the policeman who collects them.

This is by far the fastest immigration check I ever had in a country where a visa is mandatory (and arguably faster than in many places with a cursory check of the passport). Garuda probably pays for this service (13 hours round trip flying time, a hotel night, two seats on board), but what a first class welcome for economy passengers !

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Priorities are met at the luggage delivery, but there are hardly any priority luggage, which is coherent with the very few Skypriority passengers when boarding.

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The luggage tags which had been printed in CDG as JOG via NRT and DPS received a sticker redirecting them to DPS.

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Customs control only consists in X-raying all luggage, and the staff does not seem to bother much about the machine's screen. There is a sign in a corner of the room directing to domestic flights – the staff there confirms that this is indeed the correction direction.

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A new terminal was in construction when we flew to DPS back in August 2012: this is the one which is now in operation, but there is still some leftover construction work: this partition hides an area still under completion.

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After a not too long corridor, we reach the check in counters for the domestic flights. I'll describe that in the next FR.

Meanwhile, and since this is a flight to Bali, the Island of Gods, I propose a tourist bonus on particular flying machines. The Balinese do not only suggest to the passengers of their aircraft to pray, they also send flying devices to pray for those who are on the ground.

No matter where you are in Bali, especially on the south of the island, on the coast or in the fields, you seldom fail to here a distant hum which owes nothing to the local fauna. It is created by kites of commendable size. This is one taking off from a field.

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Rapid climb

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Reaching the cruise altitude

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I do not know if the various liveries have a meaning

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These ones are managed by kids, but some are so large that they require adults and strong cables to hold them.

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These are not stains on the sensor of my camera

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… but dozens of kites, as many as your vision can spot, on an ordinary day

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This one is on a short final

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Kiss landing!

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The reason that these kites buzz like oversized bugs on steroids is that the rope of the arc in the front vibrates in the wind

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The reason the young and not so young Balinese send their kites hum so high in the sky is, according to their own words, to whisper to the ears of the gods their prayers for good crops.

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I love this tradition, don't you too?
See more

Verdict

Garuda Indonesia

9.0/10
Cabin9.5
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering7.5

Tokyo - NRT

9.8/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Denpasar - DPS

10.0/10
Efficiency10.0
Access10.0
Services10.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

The fitting of the Economy cabin places Garuda in the top tier of Skyteam; the comparison of the comfort on board GA's and AF's 77W is cruel for the latter. The visa on board procedure provides the top grade for the crew, even though the immigration officers are not part of GA. The FAs were flawless anyway. The meal was OK for me, but I take into account the fact that my wife did not like it. A good IFE and the presence of the WSJ are also worth a bonus for the entertainment grade.

Maximum efficiency of the security check in NRT thanks to the VIP shortcut. Buying the Indonesian visa is also worth the top grade for services (Noether with the wifi, the power ports, the toilets, the dressing room…). The distances in the terminal were reasonable, with the help of bidirectional travelators.
A world record efficiency of the immigration in DPS, for good reason, and no objection with regards to the terminal cleanliness.
I wish all flights were like that; the only failure was not being able to book a window seat in advance. Garuda confirms in the medium haul market the excellent impression that I had on domestic flights back in 2012.

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2 Comments

  • Comment 118019 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful report along with the exquisite bonus. What a lovely ending to the report and I tend to agree that it is a fantastic tradition.

    The few reports that I have read about GA supports its reputation as a carrier climbing its way to the top. An amenity kit and printed menu in Y for a regional route are unheard of. Kudos to GA for those nice touches.

    I hope to try this carrier in the future.

    • Comment 301972 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9566 Comments

      Flying Garuda Indonesia was an experience on par with visiting Indonesia (a very small part of it, actually). I look forward to their expansion of their routes to Europe, making them a serious option for going to South East Asia. Thanks for your comment !

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