Garuda Economy Review Jakarta (CGK), Surabaya (SUB) and Balikpapan (BPN) 737
I flew four sectors with Garuda Indonesia in Economy as domestic flights for this Garuda Indonesia Review.
Garuda Indonesia is a very proud 5 Star Skytrax airlines - a badge earned by asking actual customers about how happy they are with an airline. While Indonesia aviation regulators have a reputation for being overly lax and not enforcing safety standard Garuda Indonesia has taken matters in their own hands and is the only Indonesia airline deemed safe enough to fly to the European Union and the airline also recently won approval to fly to Los Angeles.
I flew with Garuda Indonesia to Jakarta, Surabaya and Balikpapan - for all flights an identically equipped Boeing 737 was used. Planes and seats seemed at least 5 years old (if not older).
Every planes comes with an IFE entertainment system that beats many of its peers on long haul planes.
You get a crisp 16 inch display with lots of movies, TV Shows, music and a modern flight map. The entertainment system works from gate to gate without interruptions (bar passenger announcements).
Unfortunately there is no WiFi installed on the domestic planes.
Every flight features a snack or meal depending on length. I found it edible though not a culinary highlight.
There is a free bag included in every fare and none of the agents worried about my 11kg carry-on bag - I felt it could have been much bulkier or heavier and nobody would have minded.
The staff at the gates and during the flights seemed very uniform and extremely friendly. Not a single sign of rudeness or ignorance as it is the case with many airlines. I feel you can fly hundreds of flights and still never see a Garuda employee to be sad or overwhelmed. everyone seemed well qualified and know exactly what should be done with good English skills.
All the flights departed exactly on time (in a country where almost nothing is on time) and were about 80% full (I had an empty row on two flights in the back of the plane). Seat selection is free and you can check it online easily.
The airline goes to great length to fly from the most modern part of an airport. In Surabaya the airline flies from the brand new international terminal for all domestic flights as well. The new Jakarta Terminal 3 is more akin to Singapore's Changi.
Garuda Indonesia is constantly more expensive than Air Asia or Lion Air. Usually the premium is about 100% or more. That is a lot and not always worth it but you can use just 10,000 Flying Blue miles (and no fuel surcharges) to go anywhere in Indonesia within three connections (four segments).
Garuda absolutely deserves the praise and is likely one of the best airlines in Economy - besides the missing WiFi and somewhat possible improvements in catering I can't think of many things that an airline can do better.