Due to the antiquated structure of Jakarta’s Terminal 2, I left the lounge early since there will be a security queue before the gates proper. In allowing the time for the buffer, I reached the gate roughly around the boarding time as indicated on the boarding pass. While passengers have started to queue to the flight, the boarding process was cancelled as there was apparently a delay, though the nature of the problem was never explained. During the wait in the gate, I was able to take some shots of Garuda’s Airbus A330 in the silver SkyTeam livery.
About 15 minutes later, boarding was eventually called and there was a mad rush for boarding as always making it difficult even to access the Sky Priority lane. As a side note Sky Priority is nearly useless for domestic boarding.
GA834 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta CGK – Singapore Changi SIN
Boeing 737-800 PK-GNF
Gate E6 Seat 28K
Back from the lounge I already knew this flight would depart from a remote stand, along with several other international departures to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. This was even though the 2 parking spots right by the gate was empty for the whole of 20 minutes we were waiting. I just cannot fathom how the controllers at Angkasa Pura (airport operator) work.
Rant finished, and going to the plane, it was the familiar 737-800 cabin that form the backbone of Garuda Indonesia’s fleet. There was a usual familiarity as the crew welcomed us aboard. They do have a friendly cabin crew and I found my window seat easily enough with overhead space for my luggage since I was early to board.
On my window seat, I spot a Lion Air 737-900 as it pulls back with more of Garuda’s 737 beside it. The process to board took a while since it is a remote stand and passengers need to board the bus to the plane.
As I made myself comfortable and the cabin door was closed, the cabin crew distributed candies from the tray. Feel free to take as many as you like here since I have noted instances where passengers grab handfuls or two. Indonesians certainly like their sweets. Orange juice with serviettes were handed out as well and it certainly is a lot of chores for Garuda’s crew during boarding especially considering the full Economy class cabin. Thumbs up to Garuda for continuing this welcome amenity for passengers which does separate it somewhat from other carriers.
The taxi to the runway took a while as we made a round, passing both an Eva Air and China Airlines widebody jet from Taipei. The Eva Air jet was a special 777-300ER with the Hello Kitty motif so it was certainly nice to spot during the taxi.
The route also passed the ongoing construction for Jakarta’s Terminal 3 which has been slightly delayed and is to be Garuda’s future home.
Once we were cleared to be airborne, the plane made a rush for take-off since we were already behind schedule by at least an hour by this point. The turn towards a northerly route meant we flew past the chain of islands commonly knows as Pulau Seribu (Thousand Islands). Consider this the weekend getaway resort for Jakarta locals with pristine beaches and quaint eco-chalets.
The beautiful weather up in the skies meant the flight was uninterrupted as the crew handled the inflight meal service. Being seated somewhere in the middle, it took a while before we were served though as service started from the front and rear of the aircraft simultaneously. Thus we were the last passengers to be served. For a 90-minute flight, it was nice to have a real meal even in Economy class as the choices for the day was between fish with potatoes or chicken with rice. Noting the rice as the Indonesian or Asian staple, I went with that option.
There was a couple of times that I had been disappointed with Garuda’s catering before. This time round, the meal was actually decent with the chicken quite tasty. The meal included a small salad bowl with a spicy vinaigrette along with a mocha mousse and a packed bun. A pack of refreshing towel can be found in the tray as well, and the whole meal service does have a premium feel about it, showing that Garuda certainly have taken note to improve their meals.
After the distribution of the meal, the crew offered tea and coffee. At the same time they cleared the tray of those passengers who have finished. I just requested for a top up of water and relaxed for the remainder of the flight. The 737-800s in Garuda Indonesia’s fleet are all installed with audio-video on demand (AVOD) with a packed headphones by the seatback pocket so I went about to watch some TV series.
One good thing I found flying with Garuda was how passengers could watch the entertainment system right until landing and that would allow passengers to watch a full movie for a return flight on this route. Our late departure meant a slightly late arrival with the sunset casting a nice glow over Johor river as we circled around north of Singapore for the descent.
Upon landing, we were on the runway at the other end of the terminal since Garuda Indonesia uses Changi’s Terminal 3 and that meant another long taxi across the expressway and more ogling at airplanes as I spot some newbies like a Scoot 787, an Etihad 787 and a Qatar A350.
While Garuda Indonesia uses the nicest terminal, it has always docked at the far end of the terminal and that usually means taking the Sky Train to reach the immigration and customs. Garuda Indonesia certainly tries hard to impress even in Economy class with the welcome amenities and improved catering. However it is bogged down by an inefficient airport operations in Jakarta along with delays, such that if it was not the fact I was trying out my SkyTeam Elite Plus status, I might have went with Singapore Airlines instead especially when Garuda at times charges what Singapore Airlines is asking.