Garuda Indonesia B737-800NG Economy
Background Garuda Indonesia launched daily flights between Hong Kong and Jakarta in June last year, operated by the carrier’s new fleet of Boeing B737-800 Next Generation aircraft. Garuda Indonesia has a total of 153 of these aircraft on order as part of its overall revitalisation strategy, to be delivered by 2015. Other arms of the strategy include a refreshed livery, a new logo, flatbed seats in business class on select aircraft, enhanced in-flight entertainment systems and a stronger network.
Check-in Shockingly, the online check-in facility didn’t seem to work so I could not check in the night before, as I usually do. In the morning, I checked in at Kowloon Station of the Airport Express line where I was slightly shocked again: when I handed over my passport, the lady at the counter asked for my ticket too – a necessity that I assumed was a thing of the past with the arrival of the e-ticket. Garuda Indonesia doesn’t seem to be keeping up with the times. Luckily, I had printed out a copy, but I really wonder how much longer the check-in process would have taken if I hadn’t. Since I could not request a vegetarian meal online the night before, I had to specify at the counter, which seemed to fluster the lady and took another five minutes, before I could be on my way.
Boarding My gate number was 501, meaning it was all the way down the North Satellite Concourse, which can only be reached by bus. As a result, there was no time for me to shop or eat if I wanted to get to my gate on time for boarding at 0830. While boarding I realised that Garuda didn’t seem too fussed about the size restrictions of carry-on luggage; I was surrounded by people carrying large carton boxes and three to four other smaller bags. I guess that’s great news for anyone headed to Jakarta for a shopping spree.
The Seat The single-aisle aircraft has a 3-3 configuration meaning seats are not wide and pitch is rather small too; not too much of a problem for regional, short- to medium-haul flights. The business class cabin is slightly better, with a total of 12 seats in a 2-2 configuration. Fortunately, I got the aisle seat of the exit row in the economy cabin providing me with enough legroom. The seat is quite narrow and, since it doesn’t sport the eggshell back, when the passenger in front reclines one is likely to get irritated.
Which seat to choose Stick with the exit row seats or the first row of the economy cabin to get as much space to yourself as possible in the cramped aircraft.
The flight The minute you step on to the aircraft, you feel confined because the ceiling is quite low. Thankfully, the flight itself was very smooth. In fact, I dozed off during the take-off and didn’t even notice when the aircraft had completed its ascent. Before take-off, cabin crew were handing out candies and bottled juices and helping everyone with their carry-on luggage, which was both refreshing and surprising given the size and quantity of the luggage that some passengers were carrying.
Another positive thing about the flight was the recently upgraded in-flight entertainment system, which is now AVOD (Audio Visual On Demand). Although I knew this about the carrier before the trip, I wasn’t expecting a wide and interesting range of films or shows – I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of choice.
As soon as the seatbelt signs went off, the cabin crew were handing out wet napkins first and then sandwiches and drinks, which I thought was done very efficiently. After about half an hour, the meals were served and my vegetarian option consisted of penne pasta in tomato sauce and some lentils – an odd combination and quite bland too. I spent the rest of the flight watching movies.
One thing I found peculiar was the prayer card in the seat pocket alongside the in-flight magazine and safety instructions card, which consisted of Muslim, Hindu, Christian and Buddhist prayers.
I’ve never seen such a thing before and I still can’t figure out why the carrier would provide that for
Arrival Although the flight arrived 10 minutes late, it landed as smoothly as the take-off. It seemed as though we had arrived at a quiet hour because the airport was quite empty. I was the first one at immigration, which was thankfully a painless and quick process, and within 20 minutes I had collected
my luggage and was heading to my destination by 1400.
VerdictOverall, Garuda Indonesia is a fine option for short flights, and the timing of this particular flight between Hong Kong and Jakarta is great. Though it’s not incredibly comfortable, the service is smooth and the in-flight entertainment system is good enough to keep passengers distracted from the mild discomforts of the aircraft.
Plane type: B737-800 Next Generation
Seat configuration: 3-3
Seat pitch: 31in/78cm
Seat width: 17in/43cm
Seat recline: 103 degrees
Price: Internet rates for a one-way flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta in mid-March start from HK$2,411 (US$309)