CGK-UPG by GA Executive Class

GA 604 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta CGK – Makassar Sultan Hasanuddin UPG
2 August 2010
Scheduled ETD/ETA: 0710 – 1030
Actual Time of Departure/Arrival: 0741-1045
B737-400 PK-GWK
Seat No: 3A

It has been a long time since I took Garuda Indonesia’s Executive Class seating with most of my domestic flights within Indonesia only taking place between Jakarta and Bandar Lampung. This time though I will be accompanying Dad on an overnight visit to Makassar. With most flights full between Jakarta and Makassar or previously known as Ujung Pandang (hence the UPG airport code), we got tickets on Executive Class. Garuda Indonesia have been extensively marketing its new Executive Class on its international Tokyo and Amsterdam routes lately and while I am not expecting those for my domestic flight, it got me thinking of Executive Class on the CGK-AMS flight. Next time maybe, for this morning, arriving at the airport around 6.20am, we went towards the Executive Class counter to check-in. With no suitcases being checked in, the process was a breeze, though I have to say I don’t think Garuda Indonesia has any form of great online check-in, and neither was it to check-in one day prior when we arrived from Bandar Lampung on another Garuda flight. These inflexibility, I think still makes it far from the offerings of Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, 2 of my favourite regional airlines.

Check In Counter
Garuda Indonesia Executive Class Check In.

After checking in, the agent provided coupons to grant us entry into the Executive Lounge. It is worth noting that the Garuda Indonesia Executive Lounge is perhaps the best in the domestic terminal, and that all Garuda Indonesia flights are operated out of the much better Terminal 2 which is way better than the smoky Terminal 1. The lounge is relatively packed with many passengers and planes leaving in the morning to various domestic destinations, though the food offering was much better than even some international departure terminals. There was in fact, one serviced counter serving a traditional Indonesian mixed rice called Nasi Liwet. There was also free internet, porridge, coffee, juices and soft drinks for passengers. Their weakness though lies in their limited English language reading materials with mainly Indonesian magazines and newspapers. Granted its a domestic terminal, but hey Garuda, if you want to go international and be the flag carrier of Indonesia, please prepare more English/Chinese reading materials in the lounge, since your inflight magazine already has articles written in these 2 languages! The lounge, though had good marks for views of the tarmac and I could see a Lion Air flight being pulled back for departure to Singapore in the early morning.

Lion Air and Garuda
Tarmac View from the Executive Lounge of a Lion Air headed to Singapore being pulled back

Nasi Liwet for Breakfast
Nasi Liwet served in the Lounge

Soon at around 7.00am, after having a quick snack at the lounge, we proceeded for boarding, and I was disappointed that we weren’t boarding via the aerobridge. Instead we were the last few passengers to board the bus towards our plane parked out on the tarmac. Upon boarding, we placed our roller suitcases inside the bulkhead compartment which by then was already quite packed. As far as I can see, the plane was flying on 100% capacity with every seat being accounted for, including all 14 seats in the Executive Class. I was being seated on the 3rd row window seat with my Dad seated on the aisle. It was a pretty great seat with another seat to my back and 1 ahead of me. As soon as we were seated, we were served with a welcome drink of either orange or apple juice, where I picked the latter, as well as hot towels. No nuts was served though and I do have to say I really liked the mixed nuts package they serve on their economy class. (Probably the best mixed nuts ever on an airline). I was pretty suprised Garuda serves a welcome drink even when we were the last few to board, and since it was a domestic service.

Apple Juice
Apple Juice served onboard before take-off

Garuda Indonesia B737
Another Garuda Indonesia 737 in the old livery

After our drinks was served it was still some time before pullback occured around 7.33am as the flight attendant started the safety demonstration. Seems there was a long queue for the runway in the morning before we passed by several Garudas in old and new liveries and took off at around 7.41am. I took this chance to peruse the inflight reading choices and it was a special issue in August to commemorate Indonesia’s independence day. Being the first few days of the month, I also liked the freshness of the magazine all placed in a transparent folder in Executive Class. There was also a small brochure by the BKPM or the government body to facilitate foreign investors showing why Indonesia is a country worth investing in. Pretty neat touch there for Garuda I must say! The seats for this aircraft was the old style seats in blue and though old, I though it was still wide and comfy enough for me. Legroom was no problem since I did not even have to disturb my Dad when he reclines if I want to step out onto the aisle. There was a footrest and generally good recline, similar to the regional Economy Class seats of Dragonair or Silk Air. There was, however no in-flight personal entertainment system, with an outdated small screen at the front and no headphones provided for every passenger. I didn’t ask for any either since what was shown didn’t interest me, so perhaps they might have headphones for passengers.

In-flight Magazine
In-flight Magazine and the Transparent Folder

Inside the 737-400
Inside the Executive Class Cabin

New Liveries of Garuda Indonesia
Planes sporting new liveries of Garuda Indonesia

During the taxi towards the runway, I also spotted a Lion Air 747 which makes trips to Jeddah, similar to what Garuda utilizes for its flights to Jeddah. There was also the fleet of Mandala Air which I believe uses Airbus A319 or A320s in their fleet. I also caught the Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 which flies to Hong Kong every morning. On some days, a Boeing 777-300ER operates this flight, which has better equipment I believe. The A330 is the one I’ll be taking to Hong Kong later this month. Take off was uneventful and pretty smooth since it was a clear sunny morning, albeit a bit misty or smoky since Jakarta is as polluted as ever. Visibility thus wasn’t as good for taking photos. I got a shot which shows the assortment of old planes on Soekarno-Hatta which looks like these planes were being abandoned.

Assorted Old Planes on the Ground
Assortment of old planes grounded in Soekarno-Hatta

Very soon though we were at cruising level and being a nice day with great weather, the view in the morning was great! Reminds me once again of the wonders of flight and why I like the taking airplanes. As the plane will fly from West Java to Celebes or Sulawesi, it will cross the whole island of Java, but since I wasn’t on the right side, the view I got was of the coastline, rather than the dramatic volcanic peaks of Java.

Reason why flying is fun!
View during the flight

Half an hour into the flight, the table was set up by the flight attendant as meal service is being prepared. Executive Class passengers had a choice of Indonesian Fried Rice or Omlette. I chose the Fried rice which was served with a sunny side up as well as some prawns. I found the rice to be a bit dry and not that tasty. The Nasi Liwet served in the lounge seems a far better choice… There wasn’t much choice of beverages though they had Diet Coke/Coke Light which I had taken a liking to recently. Previously I only liked the Coke flavour without the gas… There was also a fruit cocktail which was too sweet and a serving of yoghurt which I did not take. I also politely declined bread, though jam and butter was served alongside. Coffee and Tea service was also offered during the meal and after the meal. I was impressed by the new plates featuring Garuda’s newest livery, though I have to say they need a nice cutlery for Executive Class since even SQ’s economy class cutlery is way better.

Inflight Meal
In-flight meal of Indonesian Fried Rice with Sunny Side-Up, Fruit Cocktail and Yoghurt

After the meal service, I headed out to the washroom and it was clean and had hand soaps, eau de toilette and lotion prepared for passengers on the side, showing that amenities and magazines have also been consistently topped up and refreshed when necessary. A step up from service amongst Indonesian airlines! I also enquired if I may bring the magazine with me upon disembarking and they were kind enough to give me a positive reply. Articles in the magazine though not on par yet with what Cathay has, had a variety of articles in English, Indonesian, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, which shows the airline’s commitment to international routes, and I wanted a copy since it was a commemorative edition as well.

Samalona Island off Makassar
Samalona Island off Makassar

First Sight of Makassar
First sight of Makassar

Around an hour after meal service, the crew prepared for landing and passengers could spot the famous Samalona Island which was also featured in the August issue of the Garuda in-flight magazine. Very soon, we were also able to see the coastline of Makassar and the main Jeneberang River located south of the city. Being my first trip to Makassar, it seemed awfully huge, and seems much more well developed. The weather was a bit cloudy on our arrival though it reduced the glare and reflection while allowing me to take more photos of the city. The plane made quite a distance inland before landing, though we could spot some skyscrapers closer to the waterfront, indicating Makassar’s location as a waterfront and major port city in South Celebes.

Jeneberang River cuts through Makassar
Jeneberang River bordering the south of the city of Makassar

Landing at Makassar was slightly bumpy due to the windy weather, though there was a nice beautiful view of the mountains on one side of the runway and a modern terminal building on the other side. In fact the new terminal building of the Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport was a welcome addition to the ancient traditional architecture which graces several Indonesian airports. The airport, though is relatively small, with only 6 or 7 gates if I count correctly, and on the day and time I arrived, only a lone Lion Air was waiting. Upon disembarking via the aerobridge in Makassar, the airport was bright and airy thanks to its glass facade and there was a sort of welcome feeling in the airport, like being in an international city. Our plane will be making a transit stop in Makassar as it will head next towards Kendari which is located east of Celebes Island. Several planes also use Makassar as a transit point to other airports in Eastern Indonesia. While in Makassar, we also had to move our time one hour ahead as the Eastern Indonesian region time is in effect here.

Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport
Sultan Hasanuddin International Airport

Waiting Area of Terminal
Bright and Airy Waiting Area

There were also travellators for passengers to reach the main concourse easily from where they will proceed a floor down to the baggage claim area. On the main floor are some souvenir and gift shops and the relatively new building also meant a great and clean terminal. Once past the baggage claim area, there was also an orderly and neat taxi stand which we took to reach to the city. Taxis departing the airport, though goes on a flat rate rather than by the meter, even though they have a meter. Thus far, my impression of Makassar was excellent with its new airport terminal and orderly maintenance of facilities. This made this part of Indonesia a lot like Malaysia and Singapore, 2 of its more advanced neighbours. The trip via Garuda’s Executive Class was icing on the cake as I got to sample the commitment the airline has placed towards passengers. In its ongoing transformation, I believe Garuda has improved sufficiently to make me consider taking its planes for overseas flights once again. I do hope that Garuda continues its good work and makes more progress and expands its fleet once again to become a truly viable competitor to Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific.

GA 604 at Sultan Hasanuddin
GA 604 refuelling while on transit at Makassar.

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