Garuda Indonesia Business Class from Melbourne (MEL) to Denpasar, Bali (DPS)

In March of 2014, Garuda Indonesia became the 20th member of Skyteam, and with that opened up a large route network throughout Asia and Oceania for redemption using miles for all Delta SkyMiles members.

Garuda went through a major rebranding and image revival in 2009/2010, improving their service, reputation, livery, crew, uniforms, and more, attempting to reinvent themselves as an airline and company.  Despite that, and despite being a member of Skyteam for over a year, calling Delta agents usually results in a “What’s Ga-ruddah?” response?  The first agent claimed they didn’t exist, and the second agent had to be convinced to visit the SkyTeam website to see that they indeed were a member!

Introduction
Alaska Airlines First Class from Seattle (SEA) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Star Alliance Lounge Los Angeles
Virgin Australia Business Class from Los Angeles (LAX) to Brisbane (BNE)
Virgin Australia Lounge Brisbane
Virgin Australia First Class from Brisbane (BNE) to Cairns (CNS)
Cairns, Great Barrier Reef, and Surrounding Areas
Virgin Australia Lounge Cairns
Virgin Australia First Class from Cairns (CNS) to Melbourne (MEL)
Westin Melbourne and the Press Club
Garuda Indonesia Business Class from Melbourne (MEL) to Denpasar, Bali (DPS)
Sheraton Kuta, Bali (Wow, Wow, Wow!!)
Korean Air Business Class from Denpasar (DPS) to Seoul (ICN)
Korean Air Lounge, Seoul
Free! Cultural Experience in Seoul
Korean Air Business Class from Seoul (ICN) to Seattle (SEA)

Despite all the hiccups, Delta agents managed to get that leg added into our trip, and away we go 🙂

GA719 Checkin

Business class is of course given lounge access, and in Melbourne Garuda uses the Qantas lounge.  The QA lounge in Melbourne is huge, and we only had about 15 minutes before we needed to get to the gate, so pics are a bit hurried.  We had just enough time to get some pastries, a coffee, and be on our way!  Below are a few pics for you guys.  Hopefully when we go back we’ll have more time to enjoy the services they offer.

Pastry Selection

Pastry Selection

Huge drink selection

Huge drink selection

Candies and Sweets

Candies and Sweets

Tiny traveller kids section

Tiny traveller kids section

Shower and bathroom facilities

Shower and bathroom facilities

Self Serve Barista station

Self Serve Barista station

Restocking the pastries

Restocking the pastries

Hash browns and Sausages

Hash browns and Sausages

Fresh fruit, granola, yogurt

Fresh fruit, granola, yogurt

Wine and spirits (even at 8am)

Wine and spirits (even at 8am)

How about some fresh juice?

How about some fresh juice?

Made to order breakfast station

Made to order breakfast station

Egg and Bacon Pie :)

Egg and Bacon Pie 🙂

Coffee, Tea, Pastries, and fruit (to go station)

Coffee, Tea, Pastries, and fruit (to go station)

It’s amazing how the international lounges are so far ahead of the domestic lounges here in the USA.  Fresh made to order breakfasts, hot plates, quality food and drinks are all standard overseas, whereas here in the states you’re lucky to get some concentrated pasteurized boxed “orange juice” and stale cookies.  Makes US travel seem boring and unexciting by comparison.

Boarding started promptly on the time shown on the boarding pass, but since we wanted to make sure we had some time in the lounge when we got to the gate it was almost devoid of life.  In fact, the gate agents looked at us in surprise that we took that long to show up!

We quickly boarded the plane and were greeted by two wonderful flight attendants, who bowed to welcome us and shown to our seats. After we sat, they bowed again and thanked us.   As you can see, there was another pair of passengers in the back row, but other than them, and the two in front of us, that was it.  30 seats and only 6 occupied,  almost like having your own private cabin!  No wonder there was lots of availability using delta miles 🙂

Garuda A330 Business

Garuda A330 Business

Business class Seats

Business class Seats

The seats were tight but comfortable, with the controls on the right and TV controls on the left.  Just after being seated we were offered a pre departure drink, mimosas all around!  The Brut Rose was quite nice, crisp, and had a really great flavor.

Pre Departure Champagne

Pre Departure Champagne

Hot towels were also distributed, always a nice touch in my opinion.

Mimosas

Mimosas

It’s worth noting that Garuda received the World’s Best Cabin Crew Award for 2015, and truly it shows.  Throughout the entire flight the service was unlike anything we’d received inflight before.  They’re not shy about showing the award either.  There were two panels in the plane, a few in the boarding area, and in the inflight magazine as well.

Skytrax Award

Skytrax Award

The inflight video was kinda trippy and interesting.  Everything apparently floats by magic, and it gives you an idea of the “bowing” we talked about earlier.  I counted 32 bows on our flight.  Was a bit much, but I suppose it goes to the SkyTrax Awards nab.  My favorite comes at 1:20 when she looks up with that kinda “Yea, I just levitated that!” face.

The menus were passed out shortly afterwards, and the drink menu alone was 7 pages long.  It included a list of all the alcoholic drinks, non alcoholic options, and special coffee and tea service that you could have in flight as well.  The tea/coffee experiences were especially unique, as Indonesian coffee is some of the best in the world.  Their teas are also fantastic with lots of flavors, so it offered a chance to sample some great local flavors on board.

Menu Page 1

Menu Page 1

Menu Page 2

Menu Page 2

Menu Page 3

Menu Page 3

Menu Page 4

Menu Page 4

Menu Page 5

Menu Page 5

Menu Page 6

Menu Page 6

Menu Page 7

Menu Page 7

While we looked over the menu after asking for our champagne, we took a moment to also scan the selections of videos and their wonderful descriptions 🙂  At least the movie selection was varied and current, with lots of new releases and TV shows to pass the 6 hour flight.

Description... lacking?

Description… lacking?

Description... lacking?

Description… lacking?

Before dinner service the FA came back around and filled up our Champagne, and offered a small bit appetizer which was a sort of caper/olive/tomato mix.  We asked for more, and we were happily provided with them (with the prerequisite bow, of course).

Rose Champagne

Rose Champagne

There is something really magical for me still, after flying as much as I have, seeing the world map for the other side of the world.  I love it.

In flight Map

In flight Map

I took a stroll back to the economy cabin, which was about half full.  The seats were tight like most coach seats, but a lot of people were sprawling out over the empty seats and lying down to sleep.

I took a step back to the coach cabin to see what everyone else is doing.

I took a step back to the coach cabin to see what everyone else is doing.

As I headed back to the business class cabin the flight crew was coming around with appetizers and bread.  Notice the salt and pepper (in individual bowls) and the glass presentation plate under the bread and butter.  The crew really takes pride in placing everything just-so, and it shows.

Pre flight snack

 

Presentation of Ben’s soup dish.  The taste was excellent, fresh, hot, and seasoned perfectly.

Hot Indonesian Soup

Hot Indonesian Soup

And for my main entree, I chose the Shrimp and curry with rice.  The food was prepared perfectly and tasted excellent.

Indonesian Fried Rice

Indonesian Shrimp Curry and rice

Dessert was a Pandan Panacotta with vanilla cream and a raspberry coulis.  So good, we asked for more 🙂

Pandan flavored Panacotta

Pandan flavored Panacotta

About two hours into the flight I was getting a bit hungry, as the food prepared before was good but I wanted to try some new food options.  Also, I figured that if I wanted to have some real Indonesian food (without the risk of getting diarrhea) then I should eat it on the plane and not on the street.  I decided to go for the Nasi Goreng (fried rice) with chicken, and was glad that I did.  It was a great way to get a taste of the region, without the requisite charcoal pills.

They brought it with some of the coffee from the Indonesia coffee service, and it was EXCELLENT.  Indonesian coffee is slowly becoming my new favorite.

This chicken "snack" was served on demand halfway through

This chicken Nasi Goreng “snack” was served on demand halfway through

Just before the arrival we were offered one more serving of almonds and hazelnuts. It was a great finish to one of the most solid services that we’ve ever had.  The food quality was excellent.  The attention to detail was so good that it never once made us feel like we were bothering them, on the contrary, they made it very clear that their jobs was to make sure we had the best experience ever.

Warm Nuts upon Arrival

Upon landing, the flight crew held back the economy class passengers until all business class passengers had a chance to deplane.  At this point we walked through the long, long, long hallways to the immigration terminal.  When we got to the front of the line, there was a sign explaining how much you had to pay for immigration (cash of course).  It’s my understanding that Indonesia stopped this practice and as an American you no longer have to pay for your Visa.

Indonesia Immigration Prices

Once we passed through the immigration station, a group of Garuda ground staff was waiting for us and said “Business?  Business?”  We responded yes, and we were lead to a special waiting room.  This room is a service that Garuda has for all the arriving business class passengers, along with Sky Team Elite passengers.  Simply give your luggage ticket to the agent, sit back and relax.  They will go get your luggage for you and bring it to you!  The lounge is basic, but it DOES have air conditioning, bottled water, sweets, and big comfy chairs to relax and wait for your luggage.

Garuda Waiting area

 

Premium Arrival Service

 

Sky Priority and Business Class

 

Shortly after this, we were presented with our luggage and headed out to customs, and finally to the taxi area.  We were bombarded with hundreds of people shouting for us to choose them for a taxi, but we chose to book a direct transfer for around $14.  It seemed like the most efficient and safest method to get to the hotel and for the price, it couldn’t be beat.

Garuda Indonesia was a really pleasant surprise for us both.  We didn’t know what to expect from the airline that barely anyone in the states (that we spoke to at least) had ever heard of.  To our joy, the airline’s seats were comfortable, the entertainment varied and complete, the food was extremely well prepared and tasted fantastic, the alcohol flowed freely, and the service from the crew was some of the best that we’ve ever seen.  I would happily fly Garuda again both long and short haul, and considering their relative availability with Skymiles, it seems like that’s going to be one of the best uses you can find!

Next up, a review of the Sheraton Bali Kuta hotel and resort!

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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