Garuda Indonesia has had fun with their London route by changing the schedule almost every year or canceling the route entirely for a month to then reintroducing it. Luckily, I was able to fly Garuda Indonesia business class between Jakarta (CGK) and London (LHR) when the route was still operating.
Could a finally unstable airline like Garuda still live up to its questionable name on a long-haul route between South East Asia and London that is so competitive? Find out in my full review of Garuda Indonesia 777 business class from Jakarta (CGK) to London (LHR).
Table of Contents
The trip routing
This flight was the first flight of my trip to position myself to Europe from Indonesia for a quick visit as I booked Singapore Spontaneous Escape from Rome and to Singapore for 38,000 KrisFlyer miles in business class.
As I booked the Singapore Spontaneous Escape redemption from Rome to Singapore, I jumped on the opportunity to try out Garuda’s London route before it could randomly get canceled. While I could have also flown their Amsterdam route, that one is more stable, I wanted to fly the London route just because it won’t be existing forever.
After arriving in London, I wanted to actually leave London and found there is a late flight to Athens, a great opportunity to visit Athens as I have never been. After Greece, I had to make my way to Rome but decided to arrive 3 days before my flight so I can enjoy some Italian food.
- CGK->LHR: Garuda Indonesia 777-300 J
- LHR->ATH: Aegean Airlines A321 J
- ATH->FCO: Aegean Airlines A320 Y
- FCO->SIN: Singapore Airlines A350 J
- SIN->CGK: Garuda Indonesia 737-800 Y
Similar to Daniel’s recent trip, I booked my trip pretty close to the departure date, about 4 days before departure. Unlike Daniel though, I am typically booking flights the same day as the departure or the day before, so I am somewhat used to these spontaneous flights to somewhere I might have no idea about.
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Here are the details for the flight:
- Route: Jakarta (CGK) -> London (LHR)
- Flight No: GA 86
- Aircraft: 777-300ER
- Registration: PK-GIE
- Date: February 26, 2019
- Departure Time: 12:05 pm (actual: 12:29 pm)
- Arrival Time: 8:00 pm (actual: 8:26 pm)
- Flight Time: 14 hours 57 minutes
Booking Garuda business class with points
Garuda Indonesia had good availability between Europe and Indonesia, but since the London flight is cut and Amsterdam flight is reduced, which are their two EU destinations, they have very little availability now. Still, you can find availability on their Amsterdam route, but not much last minute availability.
Back in February, I only searched once and I found availability along with the surrounding days that had availability. So, I booked it right away a few days before the departure. I booked it through Delta as I usually have too many Delta miles from credit card welcome offers and flying Delta enough to be a Gold Medallion.
From CGK to LHR, this one-way booking in business class required 80,000 Delta SkyMiles for $16.40 USD. In comparison, AA would want 75,000 miles one-way. In my eyes, this would be a great way to use your SkyMiles if you’re ever in Europe or Asia and want to visit the other region.
Edit: Sadly, it’s not 80,000 SkyMiles anymore for Garuda nonstop routes to Europe. It now requires 95,000 SkyMiles. Fees are about the same, but the mileage price increase just shows why you should always use your SkyMiles when you see a good redemption.
Heading to the airport
I was staying at the Keraton at the Plaza, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Jakarta (one of my favorite city hotels in the world) and it took me about 45 minutes from the hotel to CGK as it was noon with less traffic than usual.
However, it can take up to an hour and a half during peak travel times of certain days. So make sure you check Waze (usually more accurate than Google Maps for ETAs in Indonesia) before you leave.
Garuda Indonesia has a nice empty premium check-in area where SkyTeam Elite Plus, business, and first class passengers can visit counters or have service at the seating area.
I was the only passenger in the check-in area making it feel very exclusive. Within minutes I checked in and made my way to the SkyPriority security and customs right across from the check-in counters.
The lounge experience
Garuda Indonesia business class lounge is alright. It’s worthy enough for a visit if you have time, but not worthy for arriving to the airport extra early for the lounge experience.
It has everything you would need with extra stuff you might want like a buffet with hot and cold foods, massage chairs, tables, regular lounge chairs that are just okay, prayer room, showers, kids room with PS4, nap room, and a mini theater with specific times for screenings. None of it is impressive by any means, but there are enough amenities to keep you occupied.
Sadly, the lounge is somewhat hot in some areas. It seems like the AC doesn’t work, so there are standalone AC units scattered around the lounge.
If I had to compare it to any other business class lounges, it offers more amenities than Singapore KrisFlyer Silver lounge but doesn’t feel as premium as it should be. It will sometimes get crowded during the day, but during this visit, there were a handful of people.
Boarding proceeded from gate 10 in terminal 3 of CGK with a slight delay without notification. There is plenty of seats, benches, and lounge chairs. However, in no time ground staff came around handing out waters and then proceeded with boarding.
Flight attendants were welcoming passengers during the boarding process and escorted some people while helping with bags. Even though I declined the help with my carry-on bag from the boarding door, I find it great to see the crew asking if you need help with your bags in business class.
My first pre-departure drink watermelon juice, something that more airlines need to offer. The watermelon juice was accompanied with a warm towel.
Then the crew asked if I wanted more to drink and I decided champagne. Whenever my glasses became empty during boarding, the flight attendants came over to refill the glass with more watermelon juice or champagne.
Plus, I got a cute mini cheese tart to accompany my pre-departure drinks during the boarding process.
Garuda business class seat
Garuda Indonesian 777 forward facing fully lie-flat business class seats are configured in a 1-2-1. They are staggered, which means A and K seats are true window seats closer to the window with more privacy. While C and H seats are closer to the aisle even though it’s a window seat.
I chose seat 11k, which is all the way in the back of the cabin and I found that this seat has more counter space than other seats.
Notice the left thin armrest when facing the seat. It’s small and I wasn’t that comfortable when using it. Even when it’s padded, I still felt like it was there just to check off a box on a seat spec list. Luckily that armrest goes down when you go into lie-flat bed mode.
When it comes to storage in the seat, the seat has very little as the only true storage pocket is the compartment under the right armrest. If you want to store your laptop anywhere, the only places would be on the counter or inside your bag under the footwell.
The tray table is stored up against the wall, which allows you to move the tray table out of the way when eating as you can push it back towards the IFE.
As you get closer to the seat, you might notice some of the places on the seat, like the armrest, are getting worn down. However, most places, like the controls, counter, and the seat itself are still in good condition.
I prefer forward facing seats as the seat feels wider than reverse herringbone seats, especially when you’re reclined and not having to go into a “V” shaped footwell when seated in a reverse herringbone seat.
The padding on this particular seat is kinda lacking in seat mode, but when you’re in lie-flat bed mode the padding was just right for me. The width of the seat felt constricted when sitting upright or relaxing, but width for the footwell (shoe size is US 11 size) and waist is better than other forward facing seats. Once in lie-flat bed mode, the width wasn’t an issue.
Yes, these aren’t the best seats, I prefer other business class seats like Delta One Suites or Apex Suites. I have no complaints relaxing or sleeping in the seat. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly this hard product, but the soft product is a different story.
In lie-flat bed mode, the seat isn’t the longest when compared to other seats. It felt shorter in length compared to other business class products that measure longer in length. So, I am guessing anyone taller than me, 5’10” (179cm), will be less comfortable than I. When I compare this to my flight back to Asia from Europe flying Singapore business class, the Garuda seat felt longer in bed mode.
As it’s a staggered forward facing seat, this makes every other seat different in terms of privacy. A and K seats will have the most privacy.
I was seated in 11K making me extra lucky for one of the coveted seats. Why?
C or H seats you will be exposed in the aisle. E and F seats will be honeymoon seats as they are right next to each other, great for people wanting to be right next to someone. Then there is D and G seats, which are the worse seats in business class as there is no window and exposed to the aisle. Therefore, A and K seats, if you’re traveling alone, are the best-lettered seats in Garuda business class. Here are some pics for reference.
For my seat, I had no issues about privacy in the upright or in bed mode positions. I also got extra lucky as no one was across from me in the middle seats. In bed mode, it’s more private as you lay down below the counter making it hard to see anyone else.
In terms of privacy though, these aren’t as private like Delta One Suites, Q Suites, or Apex Suites.
Sitting at the seat you will find a pillow, a nice soft blanket, slippers, headphone, bottle of water, and an amenity kit.
Garuda doesn’t go all out with their amenity kit. It is a proper kit, yet kinda ugly casing. It’s filled with Clarins products with all the basics like toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, eyeshade, earplugs, lotion, creme, and lip balm. I liked the lip balm, but wish it was bigger. I do wish the kit offered me when it comes to tissues as they always come in handy.
The slippers aren’t anything special but aren’t bad either. They are big enough for my feet (size US 11) while not feeling like paper slippers as they had enough padding and were soft.
I found the blanket just big enough while keeping me warm. Not too thick, but not too thin.
The pillow, on the other hand, could be slightly thicker, but the size wasn’t too bad as it was wide enough. So, I ended up borrowing a pillow from another seat.
Garuda IFE screen isn’t that good, as the seat is a couple of generations behind when it comes to tech. However, you can easily find a movie you want to watch with a good selection in many genres from a good amount of countries. You can easily find Hollywood movies and TV shows.
While I barely use the IFE for anything else than the inflight map, I found it okay when it comes to quality. The IFE is controlled by the touchscreen or the remote.
At the seat, you will also found an international power outlet with 2 USB ports and headphone jack located by the IFE controls.
After drinking a few glasses of watermelon juice and champagne, it was ready to take-off from Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
Absolutely beautiful view. Never gets old.
Garuda business class wifi
Garuda Indonesia uses T-Mobile Hotspot for their wifi, which is also used by other airlines like JAL and China Airlines.
I find T-Mobile Hotspot lovely as it has no data caps and the price isn’t too bad. I ended up paying for the full flight without data caps for $21.95 USD. It allowed me to stay connected and even watch YouTube easily. I could also use a VPN without issues as the connection was stable for most of the time.
Garuda business class drink menu
Garuda Indonesia offers a unique drink menu that I love because of the extensive selection of juices, coffee (Indo coffee, espresso, and French press), tea, and alcohol.
If you have never tried Indonesian coffee, it’s yummy and worth a try as the bean varies between regions of Indonesia.
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Garuda business class dining
Unlike Garuda Indonesia’s domestic routes where the food is somehwat questionable, like HokBen served in business class, luckily on their long-haul flights you get more legit catering.
There are a few airlines that offer great long-haul business class catering and Garuda Indonesia offers some of the best catering. However, you will have to like Indonesian food as those dishes will be their best options.
Their menu reads as followed:
This flight was one of my favorite dining experiences in business class. From the beautiful presentation that reminded me of first class with the quality and taste served. I loved it as I was always full because of the tasty food.
Dinner service (after take-off)
After take-off, the crew walked around asking if we wanted to eat dinner. I was hungry, so I was happy when the lovely flight attendant was taking my order. I was able to choose everything I wanted from the exact starter, main course, and dessert. Plus, if I wanted to eat more, they offered me to order more.
They first started to set my tray with a white table cloth, bread basket, salt, pepper, and individually places the cutlery down on the tray. Seeing them carefully place all the items down verse coming out on a tray makes it somewhat a first class dining experience.
They then brought me some more watermelon juice and champagne. I love how the napkins were always placed with the logo facing me.
For my starter, I ordered Soto Sulung. Soto is always yummy and I was happy to see it on the menu.
It had lots of flavors while still being light. On the side they include sambal. If you can handle spicy, you must add the sambal into the Soto adding more flavor and spice. However, I found their sambal not that spicy, but maybe I have a high spice tolerance.
For the main course, I ordered Nasi Kuning. (Fun fact, nasi means rice.)
The Nasi Kuning was my favorite dish out of everything I got on the flight. It was super filling but also left me wanting more food as it tasted so good. The rice wasn’t dry or too wet, just right. The prawns were cooked correctly and weren’t chewy. I would say, this dish put to shame some first class catering I got in the past.
For dessert, I ordered the Chef’s Cheese Board.
It had brie, blue cheese, with dried fruit, and crackers. When it comes to a cheese board, it was standard, but blue cheese as one of the options was surprising. Luckily I like blue cheese.
Overall, the dinner service was fabulously done and felt like I was eating food made and served to me on the ground.
During the whole meal, the crew made sure my glasses were always filled with water, watermelon juice, or champagne. They promptly removed all plates as I finished them and served me the next course when I desired. After the whole meal, I put my seat into the lie-flat bed mode and began to relax. When I was lying down, the crew still made sure I had enough champagne in my glass without me asking.
During the middle of the flight, I started to get hungry and wanted to try their sate jepang dan kecap and bakso sapi.
I started off with the sate jepang dan kecap, or in other words, Japanese soy sauce satay. Again, everything was carefully set down without using a tray.
This was the one dish I didn’t care for. I am not a big fan of fatty meat, and I should have known, but this was fatty meat. It tasted fine to me, but I didn’t finish it.
Next up was the bakso sapi.
The bakso was super good. Again, lots of flavors and I really enjoyed this dish. Bakso is meatball soup with noodles. The noodles had a nice firmness. Bakso is usually served with something crunchy, like crackers, but I wasn’t given any crackers. Either way, the dish was very good, even though I had bakso the day before my flight.
For a mid-flight meal that can be served on demand at any time, this was good. I just would skip the sate and just get lovely bakso.
Refreshment (pre-landing meal)
I wasn’t too hungry before landing, but whenever there is food ready to be served I will automatically get hungry.
Again, they set up the tray table just like they did during dinner service with a bread basket and no tray. They also gave me more champagne.
For the starter, there was only one choice and it was smoked duck with mango salsa.
For a starter, it was fine. I like duck, but only having one non-soup choice is somewhat disappointing. Luckily if you wanted soup instead of duck, you can get soup. The duck was very light with greens and mango on the side.
For the main course, I had yang chow rice with diced chicken and sliced beef blackpepper sauce.
Again, this dish had lots of flavor with tender beef and fried rice that was in good condition. I enjoyed this dish, like many other dishes on the flight, this was a good ending to the flight.
For dessert, they had a talam ubi with pineapple compote, which is an Indonesian dessert.
Not too sweet, this Indonesian dessert was a good farewell to Indonesia while I visited Europe for the week.
The pre-landing meal was a delight, along with all the other meals I had on the flight. I would fly Garuda long-haul again to enjoy the dining experience as the crew makes it so personal with quality tasty food.
Garuda business class service
Garuda Indonesia won the best crew in the world award from Skytrax for four years straight. However, this is their first year not winning that award.
This flight, the crew was super attentive and really wanted to be there. They made sure I was always full and asked if I ever needed any food. They let me dine at my own pace and whenever I desired making it somewhat a dine-on-demand service. The crew always made sure I wasn’t thirsty and answered to the call button within seconds. I truly loved this flight and it was sad leaving the flight and the crew.
What was also great about the crew was the fact that they were very personable. The crew wanted to talk and made an effort to talk about anything. We even talked about my plans for moving outside of the USA and wanting to be a blogger. It was also great as the flight attendants talked as well, making it a two way street in conversation resulting in a personal feel.
Garuda business class lavatory
Garuda Indonesia has cute signs for the lavatory. While I haven’t seen it on any of their other planes or other Indonesian airlines, these signs are truly special showing how one should use the lavatory.
During the whole flight, the lavatory was clean with no issues and the crew made sure it was regularly stocked and wiped down.
They offered perfume, lotion, and face mist in the bathroom as well.
Garuda business class bedding
As I mentioned above under amenities, the blanket is nice and soft. Kinda like velvet. When you’re in lie-flat mode there is no mattress pad offered, but the blanket being comfortable I made myself comfy in bed. The pillow, on the other hand, is alright, it could be thicker, but luckily I could use a pillow from an empty seat for a nice rest.
If they added a mattress pad, it could make it stand out. However, I slept a good 7 hours on this daytime flight.
The stars make the champagne shine.
Landing in London
Landing in London slight delayed made me have to rush between terminals. Being the only person transferring internationally, I made my way from the plane an empty van that took only me to terminal one to catch my flight to Athens, Greece.
I would fly Garuda Indonesia long haul business class again for two reasons. Reason one, food is spectacular for business class. I loved eating on this flight. The second reason is that the service is being so attentive. I never had an empty glass on the flight. While their domestic flights aren’t the best when it comes to either food or service, their long-haul flight to Europe offers their best flight attendants and catering.
I personally wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Garuda business class as it offers a great soft product. However, I wouldn’t go out of my way for the seat, but at least it’s better than Singapore business class.
This article was originally published by Steve Smith.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.