New Garuda A330 Business Class: GA715 SYD-DPS
Gone are the days when a business class trip to Bali was in the stuffy confines of a Virgin 737, or worse still on Jetstar. Garuda now has a seriously new and luxurious cabin on rotation to Australia and I was lucky to be one of the first to travel in style in this new ‘super diamond’ business class cabin… the five hour trip now passes in the blink of an eye and is a lot of fun! Check out my thoughts below…
We wanted a quick escape and booked at quite short notice. Business class fares to most Asian destinations on all full service airlines were coming in at ~$4000/each which was a lot higher than we wanted to spend for a short getaway. Thankfully my personal travel manager came to the rescue with these great fares to Bali on Garuda – our airfares came down to under $1800/each return.
We flew in from Brisbane the night before so we decided to stay at Rydges Sydney Airport which is located next to the international passenger terminal. Taxi’s to our home in Sydney’s north shore and back again would cost more than a room at the hotel! As the flight to Denpasar was leaving at 10:25am, staying at Rydges meant that we didn’t have to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to the airport on time.
The check-in experience was unremarkable and involved only a short wait before being seen by a check-in agent. The economy class queue was full to the brim with surfers making their pilgrimage to Indonesia’s surfing mecca.
During check-in we were given access slips to the new(ish) Skyteam lounge and a stamp on the boarding pass with access to the express path.
This was my first time visiting the Skyteam lounge. It has fantastic views over the apron and was a good size – it seemed just right for the number of passengers at this time of day. When we arrived the lounge was filing up quickly but we managed to score seats next to the windows.
The food was fine but I wasn’t blown away by the quality of the food – it looked like average food court options – my selection of the Pad Thai was as basic as it comes. The alcohol selection was great for a business class lounge, with Sancerre white wine and Grey Goose among the options (I had the latter on some ice to get my holiday started on the right foot!)
There are no boarding calls in the lounge so we were constantly looking for boarding updates on the screens or via our mobiles. No boarding calls are a blessing but also a curse if you get anxious about missing getting to the gate on time.
Boarding was in full swing when we arrived at the gate, with the last remaining passengers being processed so we walked straight on to the aircraft. We were greeted at the door and personally escorted to our seats which was lovely. I noted that it was a full flight in business class as the flight attendants were busily going through the motions – delivering hot towels and 10am champagnes to the thirsty cabin.
At the seat we found two menus – one for the meal service and one for the beverages. There was a small bottle of water and a green L’occitane amenity kit (one that I believe Garuda has had for some time now).
The aircraft was only delivered two weeks ago so it definitely had that unsullied look with a new car smell. The cabin felt spacious but I still felt a tinge of being close to my neighbours – nothing major, but the forward and rear seats do feel closer than a more traditional aircraft cabin.
We were seated in the middle pair of seats in a cabin with a 1-2-1 layout in the new super diamond business class cabin, which is usually reserved for new A350 deliveries but Garuda has installed on its new A330’s. There are 24 business class seats with each passenger having aisle access – a ‘new normal’ privilege that you don’t appreciate until you don’t have it, so well done Garuda for this advancement.
First impressions of the cabin was that it looked modern, with a conservative cream, grey and red colour scheme. When i first sat at the seat I was impressed with the space with a number of small storage areas for belongings – especially compared to the old Garuda business class that is definitely lacking in this area!
Garuda’s boarding music consisted of classical music – it would be nice if this was more traditional Indonesian music that welcomed passengers onboard as it felt stale and unfitting (unlike Etihad’s boarding music which is magical, unique and gets you into the mood).
I’ll be honest, at first the inflight entertainment screen appeared too small for my liking but it would prove later on to be fine – when you are in relax mode you’re not sitting too far away from the screen. The seats come with two USB ports and a power outlet – none of which I used on this short 5.5 hour flight.
While I was checking out all the nooks and cranny’s of the new seat space, empty champagne glasses were removed and the cabin was prepared for take-off.
Something unusual to report – as we approached the runway, everyones entertainment systems were paused for a ‘Just for Laughs’ Best of 2011 video. I was 20 minutes into a movie yet I had to endure 10-15 minutes of comedy and gags before I could get back into it. A strange start to the flight.
Service & Dining
One thing that could not be flawed on this flight was the incredible service by the cabin crew. Considering this was a full cabin it could’ve easily turned into a disaster. Thankfully they kept it together – you could barely notice that they were working at full steam.
Earlier I mentioned the champagne. I feel that this deserves a special mention as I believe its one of the few airlines (if any) that serve Billecart Salmon Rose in its business class cabin. This is a fantastic drop and one that I treat myself to occasionally at home, so naturally I was as happy as a pig in mud to have this available.
After take-off we received another glass of the aforementioned champagne along with a delicate but lonely hors d’oeuvre to get the taste buds into the mood. The crew came around the cabin asking passengers for their meal choices and I was fortunate to receive all my choices despite being in the second last row.
Lunch service started about a hour and a half after take-off so it was a long wind up to get Lunch started, especially on a shortish flight like this one.
I started off with a traditional Indonesian soup which I was told by the flight attendant is famous in Jakarta – beef broth with vegetables, and despite tasting like something I would feed my cat ended up being the most delicious part of my meal. Unfortunately the temperature of the soup was luke warm, but I didn’t mind.
Following my entrée I opted for the slow cooked beef rib which was again very nice and tender, but like the entrée the temperature wasn’t hot enough. The portion size was smaller than I would’ve liked.
I wasn’t tempted by any of the desserts on offer so went for the cheese platter instead, with a large piece of brie, smoked cheddar and crackers. It was at this point that I tried a glass of the Sancerre white wine which matched perfectly with the cheese.
The crew also bought around a snack basket with various chips and chocolates for those wanting something a little extra.
About an hour before landing I had the option for a second meal service, albeit a much smaller one than before. I went with the satay sticks which I didn’t really need but scoffed down anyway. Other options included sandwiches and other small items.
Note: press materials from Garuda refer to a self service area but on this flight it looked more akin to a cabin crew preparation and service area…
The new cabin and all the buzz surrounding it may have tainted my view, but this was a very comfortable ride. The seat in recline / relax mode made me feel like I was at a Gold Class cinema, just with better champagne and a velvety blanket.
The seat reclines fully flat and while this is a great thing, there are some things I need to point out as sleep quality may be affected if you’re a side sleeper like me.
Essentially, your legs are confined to a very narrow and long cubicle under the seat in front, and there is limited wiggle room for movement. Further, the tray table below the entertainment screen cuts into the height available for your legs – meaning you are really jammed into a wedge from the upper knee area down if you’re on your side. I could see a few issues with larger / wider travellers here but YMMV.
The aisle arm rest neatly retracts allowing more space for the upper body which is great, however this may be offset by the limited ability to move ones legs.
With that being said, the new seat in recline / relax mode was market leading in comfort.
Garuda has installed 16” Panasonic inflight entertainment LCD touch-screen Panasonic Ex3, a decent option for inflight entertainment. The interface was basic but easy to use, and while the content wasn’t extensive (especially when compared to Emirates or Singapore Airlines) I still found movies to watch, albeit reruns of previous seen movies. The television options were limited and nothing took my fancy at all.
There were no cameras on the tail or below the aircraft which was a shame because those are often nifty features of new aircraft – however there is a high quality map feature that was excellent until mine stopped working half way through the flight.
The inflight entertainment is equipped with a touch-screen handset/remote to assist with navigating around the interface. Overall an OK “but could be better” rating for Garuda in the entertainment area. Note that Garuda also offer inflight internet that I didn’t test on this occasion.
The flight seemed to fly by rather quickly and before we knew it we were descending into Bali. Nothing spectacular to report on this stage of the flight but it was quaint to see the cabin crew move through the cabin and bow at a certain part of the ‘prepare cabin for landing’ audio track (I’ve only seen this before on Asiana).
On arrival at Denpasar we made our way through immigration and waited at the Garuda premium lounge for our luggage to be collected by the Garuda porters. Don’t get your hopes up because this is just a room with seats, nothing else and is simply a waiting area for baggage. Still, it was a nice feature.
I am seriously impressed with Garuda and the accolades the airline has received are rightly deserved given my experience on this flight. The crew were excellent, and the hard product of the new business class is market leading especially on the Australia-Indonesia routes – why would you choose a Virgin Australia 737 over this? I wouldn’t hesitate to fly Garuda again and I have indeed eaten humble pie from my ‘No Garuda’ days of long.
FYI: I took a brief video of the general cabin area on this flight – see here: