#936880 by honey lamb
26 Jul 2017, 20:43
One cold Monday afternoon at the end of November I was happily planning my forthcoming trip to Chile when an email from Aer John plopped into my Inbox with the title “Just in case you were thinking of going back to Australia”. Well I wasn’t. I’d been there 10 years previously and hadn’t particularly liked Sydney, had enjoyed Queensland but returning wasn’t on my agenda. However curiosity got the better of me and in the email was a link to the Secret Flying website with a return fare on Garuda Indonesia to either Sydney or Melbourne of £1089 in Business!! Now we all know that if something seems to be too good to be true, it generally is but a few dummy bookings quickly reassured me that it was a genuine fare. OK, there were some restrictions but they were ones I could live with and so, all of a sudden Melbourne became attractive. Aer John was contacted and agreed to accompany me; dates were agreed upon and the following day, once he had clearance for leave from work I set about making the booking. At this stage time was of the essence as the deadline was on Wednesday - the following day!

Fizzing with excitement and anticipation I embarked on the booking process. I had learned much from the dummy booking process so it was easy-peasy. Dates were inputted; acknowledgement of the availability was received; names of the passengers were accepted and so on to the payment page. Ooops!!! A message popped up to say that something went wrong and they could not confirm the booking and a request that I try again. However there was no link on the Please try again request, so it was back to the beginning. Whereupon the same thing happened again...and again….and again….and…..!! At some stage Aer John rang to find out the state of play and on hearing of my efforts suggesting that I call Reservations and provided me with a phone number in Jakarta!! I however poked around the website and found a UK number in Hammersmith and called them. There was the usual “This call is being recorded…” message with the most dreary and lugubrious voice I have ever heard, before I was put onto an agent. She thankfully was much more upbeat and approachable but when I quoted the error message she immediately said that it was an IT error and asked for my phone number saying that someone from IT would be back to me within a couple of hours. I gave my number explaining I was calling from Ireland. This was at 4pm and two hours later, having heard nothing from IT, I tried again to book online again to no avail. Eventually just before 8pm when I was concerned that they might be shutting down for the night (and well aware that the bods from IT were probably at home watching Eastenders or down the pub with their mates) I called Reservations again and after the same lugubrious message was put through a most helpful chap. Having told him my story, his response was the one I had half expected - all the seats in that bucket had gone. He went through all the options that were available for the promotion but I knew that none of them suited both of us. Ah well, if something seems too good to be true…….. I notified Aer John of developments and we agreed it was a nice idea at the time.

The next morning I had a nice lie-in followed by breakfast and a shower. Once downstairs I noticed a missed call and a voicemail on my phone (where else, says you!!) This missed call indicated a number from Crawley in the UK. Well now, we all know that Crawley is synonymous with VS and my thoughts were “Why in God’s name are they calling me” This was at the height of the problems created by the VS website “upgrade” and my attitude had been to steer clear of them till the fuss had died down since I had no bookings etc. Others had more pressing issues than me. However, curiosity got the better of me and the voicemail completely sent my senses spinning!! There was a now familiar lugubrious message about recording for training purposes followed by a message from Garuda Indonesia saying that they understood I had had difficulties in making a booking and that they were now holding two seats for me for the dates I had requested and if I wanted them, please could I get back to them! OMG!! Things like this never happen to me! It wasn’t happening! I called the number and (after the same lugubrious message) got a message saying “I’m sorry, there is no-one to answer your call. Goodbye” After three or four attempts at this I threw mercy to the winds and called Reservations. After the now too familiar greeting, I was put through to a most delightful agent. I told her my story from the time of trying to book to the recent voicemail. She tried her system but to no avail. Was the call definitely from Garuda Indonesia or was it a ticket agency as there are many around Crawley. I told her I was aware of that but it was definitely GA because of the unforgettably lugubrious tones of the training purposes recording. She giggled a bit at that and then suggested I give her my phone number and she would get back to me. Not holding much hope, I said “Fine” and as usual, prefixed giving my number by saying, “I’m ringing from Ireland…” but before I could say anything more she told me to hold on as that rang a bell!! To say I held my breath was an understatement! Things like that don’t happen to me, they happen to other people. It was all a mistake! She was going to come back and say, no she was wrong. The fares were in a higher bucket (and although I wouldn’t discount a higher bucket, I had scoped other airlines to see what their fares would be for our dates and the cheapest was four times the cost of this flight! No, it was going to be all or nothing!) After what seemed to be a lifetime, the dear lady came back to me. Yes, the seats were held for me; yes, they were on the dates I wanted; yes, they were part of the Black Friday sale! Did I want them? Erm, Yes. The sweetheart that she was booked them there and then (which had me forwarding them to Aer John who was totally unaware of this development), waited till the booking came through on my email, asked me if I wanted to pay there and then (well of course I did after all that happened in the last 2 hours) and waited until the payment had gone through to ensure that the booking was rock solid! That girl and indeed, Garuda Indonesia deserve a gold medal for this alone. I had gone to bed shrugging my shoulders that “If it seems too good to be true….” then finding that sometimes things too good to be true really are true.

And so to the trip report proper!

Aer John and I met up in LHR, I after flying in from Cork and he from Dublin, and made our way to T3 and the Garuda Indonesia check-in area which was, if I recall in area G. The area was deserted but the monitors indicated that check-in would open at 4.30pm some 30 minutes hence and so we decided to stay put. When they started rolling out carpets in the Business and First Class lanes we took up positions at the head of the Business lane and waited and watched as the staff came on duty and started the preparations for check-in. Occasionally the manager would strut up and down in front of the check-in counters barking out orders and at about 4.25pm he became quite agitated asking, “Are you ready? Are you ready?” We, of course prepared ourselves for the off but to our amazement the staff left their desks and lined up in front of the counters. What was going to happen? People whipped out phones ready to record the moment and at 4.29 precisely the manager said, “Off!’ The staff joined their hands and bowed in a namaste gesture and then trotted back to their desks while we all looked at each other and said “Is that it?” and laughed. The manager also laughed at our bemusement and commented that at least it had put a smile on our faces. Well that was true as we all approached check-in. There were a couple of minor issues for us at check-in. The lady who was looking after us could not see our Australian visas and had to get help in dealing with it. In addition, Aer John had called the airline the day before to reserve seats but these were not honoured. For this leg the configuration was 1-2-1 and he had reserved window seats but the airline had moved us to the the middle seats. This was quickly resolved and we were back at the windows once more. After that it was through Fast Track security which had improved immeasurably since my last trip through some 6 years previously and then it was off to the No. 1 Lounge.

The No.1 Lounge ain’t no CH but as others have said, it isn’t a bad alternative. There was a free menu as well as a pay menu. We were both hungry and so something from the pay menu was called for. Champagne was pay for but prosecco wasn’t so we quaffed many glasses of the same. I did have a G&T but then went back to prosecco.

Eventually boarding for our flight was shown and we made our way to Gate 17. However when we got there, it was obvious that it hadn’t started! The priority lane was empty and we were quickly admitted and told to go to the far end of the area. There was a staff member there who scrutinised our boarding cards before allowing us in and it was clear that it was for pre-boarding. There were families and the elderly there as well as us. Boarding began almost immediately after and although they called for families and those needing special assistance (many of whom were around us), nobody came forward so that it was on to First, Business and Sky Priority. We were quickly on with a hop and a step and within minutes, were at our seats with glasses of a rather nice rosé champagne to hand which was quickly refilled.
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They also handed out hot towels which were offered rolled up on a specially designed curved holder - none of this shaking them out with tweezers and because of that they were hot! They were also offered after each meal service and before landing. At that stage the cabin crew came round and took our orders for dinner.
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I asked for the salmon followed by the plaice and the chocolate pud. My pre-dinner drink was a G&T (natch) even though it was Gordon’s and I requested a sauvignon blanc with my dinner.

Once boarding was complete the pre-flight announcements were made and the crew came forward and made the namaste gesture as the plane pushed back. After a quick trundle around LHR we were soon airborne ready for our Garuda Indonesia experience - the anticipation made even more enticing by the signs that stated it was a five star airline according to Skytrax. The G&T arrived with an amuse-bouche.
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The starter was delicious
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and then came the main course, plaice in a meurniere sauce.
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Well it wasn’t any meurniere sauce I had ever tasted and the plaice tasted as if it had been out of the ocean longer than it had been in it and as for the sauvignon blanc - well it must have still been in France. I had been prepared to allow a little leeway as Indonesia is a Muslim country but I had read a TR of a similar flight with this airline where it wasn’t an issue. In addition the guy in the K seats of my row had a very nice red wine on his tray. At this stage I rang the call bell and requested the wine which arrived luke-warm!! Shades of my BA flight from Santiago where exactly the same thing happened! The chocolate pud though was divine!!

Once the meal was over I bedded down for the night. On this flight there were flat beds and the blankets were good and thick with cotton on one side and a fleece on the other. The amenity kit was generous with Clarins products. I was tired but did I sleep? Not a wink! To be honest I probably dozed but the deep slumber I needed and craved did not materialise and at some stage I gave up, sat up and read. No-one came near me to ask me if I wanted or needed anything but, in truth, I didn’t. What I would have liked is to have raised the blinds as it was daylight outside but as most people were still sleeping, I didn’t. In any case, given that the plane was a 787 the crew probably had the blinds locked into the closed position.

Eventually the cabin began to stir and the crew came round for breakfast orders. I didn’t fancy rice porridge nor eggs cooked to order which was basically either an omelette or scrambled so, after a serving of fruit and cereal,
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chose the French toast with caramelised bananas and toffee sauce. When it arrived, I couldn’t stop giggling! It looked like something a dog would produce on his morning walkies and the toffee sauce looked like he would have had a diarrhetic companion!
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I honestly spent some time looking at it and wondering if I should eat it but eventually hunger won and it was fine - a tad too sweet but fine! Aer John had the same but he made no comment about the appearance! Probably just as well.

Eventually we began our descent into Jakarta. The crew came round with customs forms but I ascertained that we did not need them. There was also a final hot towel run (another one having been performed before breakfast) with the towels on the little holders. Finally, just before the crew were told to take their seats for landing, they came forward once more to the head of the cabin and gave the namaste gesture and at 5pm Jakarta time/10am UK time we landed.

We taxied in to the terminal and the doors nearest to us were opened and we were one of the first off the plane. When we got to the main airport area, it was deserted and it was unclear as to where we should go but a staff member appeared and we asked for help just at the same time that we saw the sign for Transfer and Transit passengers. We headed along a fair stretch of the building before going up and escalator and up to the departures area. It was really easy but the signage could have been a tad clearer. Once up there we ran the gauntlet of shops and Duty Free places till we got to the lounge where we were warmly welcomed before the next leg to Melbourne.

So what did I think about Garuda Indonesia? Skytrax has it as a Five * airline and although I would have disputed this, Aer John being within the industry could see why they got this rating. The positives were that the crew were attentive and, if I recall correctly, on this leg addressed me as Mrs honey lamb. OK, there was a lapse in service when they didn’t provide me with my wine until I asked for the latter but part of me was thinking that given that Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, alcohol isn’t part of their psyche the same as ours and I could almost understand their forgetting it (unlike BA who provided me with NO drink - not even water during my meal service from Santiago!). There wasn’t the interaction one expects from VS with the crew but it was certainly way and above BA and I felt there was a gentleness and kindness towards me during the flight.

So on to the next leg! Read on, dear reader!
#936985 by TimCrawley
28 Jul 2017, 21:15
Usual amazing TR that brightened the post-work blues tonight, thanks a lot for posting.

Years since I flew Garuda (pretty sure my last one was back in the days of the really great value LGW flights they offered down to Oz when you had to switch to an internal flight between Jakarta and Bali before going on to Oz with a 4-6 hour stopover in Bali in each direction .... so after suffering that on one trip I turned them into 28-30 hour stopovers in Bali to break the journey really nicely).
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