We recently went to Bali. It’s about 6 hours flying time from Sydney and the return flights are often overnight, so I looked at Business Class airfares. With a Garuda business class airfare at almost half what the competitors (Virgin Australia and Jetstar) were offering it seemed worth considering. Only problem was Garuda doesn’t have a great reputation……A bit of research revealed they had won most improved airline at the Skytrax awards in 2010, and had upgraded their fleet to include lie flat beds in business class. Given it was only for 6 hours, we took the plunge and booked for myself and Miss G (aged almost 10) to go.
Settled into seats 1A and 1C (nice start!) on the A330-200 we were offered drinks prior to take off – champagne for me and orange juice for Miss G, and warm towels. Nice start indeed! The cabin was light and airy and in good condition – and most importantly, spotlessly clean. There were two business class cabins, each of 18 seats (2-2-2 configuration).
Once in flight we settled down to lunch. A four course lunch for both of us (child’s menu had been ordered for Miss G) with a choice of chicken curry, fish or steak for main course. I went for the chicken curry and it was tasty and hot, although not a large serve. Nicely cooked vegetables and rice. Service throughout the meal service was quiet and unobtrusive but good. The child’s lunch was heavy on the fresh fruit and vegetables, and light on the junk which was nice and not always forthcoming for children’s meals. Miss G pronounced the main course fish cakes “disgusting” – they tasted fine to me, so it was more about Miss G’s picky food tastes than the food – but maybe fish cakes aren’t the right thing to serve kids as the only meal choice on a flight……the rest of the lunch went down well, and she polished off my hazelnut cake (which was more a mousse) as well. Miss G is very well looked after by the cabin crew, who call her “Miss G_____” much to her delight.
We settle into the flight and it’s time for some entertainment. Miss G finds a couple of children’s things to watch, but turns it off after about an hour, saying she’s run out of things for her age group and gets out a book. I scan the new releases and blockbusters looking for something vaguely familiar, and don’t recognise anything! Finally I find something to watch in the blockbuster section that I have never heard of, which is pleasant and then also settle down with a book for the rest of the trip.
The seat does start to get quite hard after a while, and despite fiddling with it quite a bit I have trouble getting it into a comfortable position (the lumbar support seems to be in completely the wrong place for Western frames).
Off to the loo, which again is spotlessly clean, and well maintained throughout the flight. L’Occitane handcream, facial refresher spray and green tea cologne are a nice, unexpected luxury that complement the amenities kit (supplied in a dinky burgundy satin pouch) of tooth brush and paste, lip balm, hairbrush and comb, socks, eye mask and ear plugs.
Bottles of water are replenished promptly upon request and served with a smile. We touch down on time and apart from the seat discomfort and lack of good quality entertainment, I’m happy with our experience.
Coming home we board and depart 25minutes late. Despite large numbers of ground staff around we are not offered an explanation or apology. It’s a late night flight with large numbers of young children, so some communication would have appreciated by an increasing number of harried parents.
Once we are airborne and seatbelt sign is off, good quality microfibre blankets are distributed and we lie back to sleep. This is where I start to have more sympathy for the Garuda seat – it’s actually pretty comfortable when flat and that lumber problem seems to disappear. On the downside it is pretty narrow, and with my 1.69cm (5ft 7) height my feet are hanging over the end. Miss G sleeps the entire way home (with her gift from the airline, a toy orangatang for company), but I awake in time for breakfast of yogurt, omelette and bread roll. It’s a simple and old fashioned airline breakfast, but tasty and well cooked – omelette was probably one of the nicer ones I’ve ever eaten on a plane. The loo has added shaving kits and toothbrushes and paste in addition to the L’Occitane goodies and the amenities kit.
OK, so what’s the verdict? For a flight of 6hours or so, at the price we paid, it was great and I would definitely do it again. I was happy with the service and most of the amenities. But, would I do a long haul, say from Sydney to Europe? I’d have to say, no, not at any price – those seats are just too hard and uncomfortable for a really long flight, and the entertainment is below standard for a long trip, making it a deal breaker. But, I do know where I’m looking first, next time we go to Bali!!
Disclaimer: the author booked and paid for both tickets and traveled independently on this trip.