Tag Archives: awards

Reflections on Garuda’s 90% promotion and my visit to Garuda’s offices

Years from now, when we look back at Garuda’s 90% off award tickets promo, we’ll still be arguing about just what it was that Garuda wanted to achieve with this.

The most convincing theory I can conjure is that Garuda management intended from the start that this would be a publicity stunt. Garuda’s got great new First and Business Class products, but you’d be hard pressed to find any trip reports about them online (especially First Class, but here’s one!).

Who are the people most likely to write trip reports? People like me. Who is the most likely to jump through all sorts of hoops to get fire sale award prices? Ditto.

So by launching a limited time, too-good-to-be-true promotion, Garuda found a way of converting saver award seats (which would otherwise have flown out empty) into one heck of an interweb buzz. Overnight they got tons of coverage on sites like Flyertalk and Boarding Area, and it’s safe to say a lot of people who didn’t know about Garuda Indonesia before are now talking about it. People will fly on their premium cabin products and write trip reports with photos, and before long these will propagate themselves throughout the web, boosting the awareness and image of Garuda.

There are of course many other theories out there- some speculate that it was an ill thought through promotion that got out of hand, others that Garuda wanted to make a bit more money from Citibank and needed to encourage mileage transfers.

The promotion ended up being pulled early, which led others to speculate that Garuda intended to do this all along- get people to transfer their Citibank points over so Gaurda would earn some revenue, then pull the promotion before the transfer went through. In the end Garuda promised to honor all award tickets issued before they pulled the promo, which put to bed some of those theories. But object lesson here- nothing is confirmed until your ticket is issued.

Whatever you believe, I think we can all agree that it was an amazing promotion and we are unlikely to see anything like it for a long, long time. Which brings me to my experience of trying to get onboard with this promotion.

Someone on the comments in the original Garuda post said something to the tune of  “I’m not sure anyone with a full time job could have jumped through the various hoops.” And he’s definitely right. Because over the past few days I’ve spent easily 3+ hours on the phone with various people from Citibank and Garuda trying to get my transferred points to post, having to explain the same story again and again. This is in addition to the time I spent researching different routes and physically going down to the ticketing office to get the ticket issued (fortunately I’m on leave this week).

Image result for garuda indonesia business class

But it’s finally done, and I now hold a confirmed reservation in Garuda J from Bali to Narita. It’s not the F award I was so coveting, but hey, win some, lose some. And 12,600 miles  + S$162 for a return business class ticket is not to be sniffed at.


The day the promotion was announced I jumped on the phone with Garuda. After a 40 minute session of pricing out different routes and cabins, I finally concluded that an F award wasn’t realistic (only AMS and LHR are serviced with F, and only midweek departures were available, and I couldn’t justify paying the surcharges for what would have to be a very short trip).

So I settled for a J award. I transferred my Citibank Thank You points to Garuda on 23rd December. The T&C say that points transfers can take up to 14 days, but they just say that to cover themselves. In reality transfers mostly go through in 2-3 business days.

At least, that’s what I told myself.

On Monday 26th December I was already seeing people posting about successful points transfers. Still my account had nothing. That’s when a sinking feeling started forming in my stomach as I realised it could be because my Citibank name had a hyphen in my pinyin name, but my Garuda account did not (because their system doesn’t support it).

Why oh why did my parents want me to be unique, I thought to myself as I picked up the phone to start the first of many calls to Citibank and Garuda. Citibank told me they didn’t do any sort of verification on their side, and it was all up to Garuda to accept or reject the transfer. Gaurda told me they couldn’t see any transfer yet but they’d monitor it.

On the 27th, still no points. I called Garuda again, explained the issue with the name, and was told that I’d need to check with Citibank to see if they could change the name on their side. Citibank told me I’d need to check with Garuda.

On the 28th, the points were nowhere to be seen. I called Garuda and this time was asked to call their Jakarta office for “escalation”. Garuda customer service opened a file for me and asked me to send an email with all the details. I sent it in.

On the 29th, I got a call from Gaurda saying they had no evidence of Citibank ever making a transfer. I called Citibank, conferenced Garuda in and got them to talk to each other. They told me I’d get an update later that day.

Later that day I received an update from Citibank saying that Gaurda miles would post more slowly if the Garuda account was “new” versus if it was one with prior activity. I have no idea why this might be the case but anecdotally I had heard a few people on FT talking about that. They said they’d chase it up.

Finally, I awoke on a blissful Friday morning and saw that the points were in. Never before have I been so happy to see 13,000 miles in my account. A big shout out to Natalie from Citibank for being so persistent with the follow up.


And so it was time to journey down to Middle Earth.

Garuda’s offices are on the 12th floor of United Square in Thomson.

Image result for united square

Because it’s the last working day of the year, they were on a half day and I had to get there before 1pm to close it out.

The place was deserted when I got in at around 1130 am, with only a handful of customers who clearly weren’t redeeming award tickets. I had this strange idea in my head that the whole Garuda office would be full of fellow travel hackers and we could make this our own little meetup.

Instead there were a grand total of two people there. One gentleman who had come down to ask about his luggage allowance, and one gentleman who had journeyed all the way down to buy some Garuda merchandise (I’m not kidding. He was trying on different sizes of the Garuda Liverpool FC jersey)

I explored the office while I waited. There was a display dedicated to their new 77W aircraft and cabin products

And some other Garuda tchotchkes. Incredible how Garuda went from deathtrap to world’s youngest fleet in the space of half a decade. I’m sure there’s going to be a HBS case on this before long.

They were also advertising Garuda vacation packages to Bali. They have very naughtily excluded airline surcharges from their price quote (which isn’t allowed, as per SG laws) but I’ll let it slide.

It was a slow business day, as evidenced from my queue number.

And finally it was my turn, and 15 minutes later I had my Garuda ticket in my hand. I read reports that you needed to have your physical membership card, but I wasn’t even asked to show my digital one. I received an email confirmation while I was still at the office that my ticket was now issued.

So I’m going to be reviewing Garuda’s J product over the May Day long weekend. I will need to position myself to Bali to catch the flight, and very honestly if I weren’t in the hobby of writing reviews of different airline products I might not have gone through all that trouble. The positioning ticket + taxes on the award is costing me $360 out of pocket, and that’s not taking into account my hotel in Tokyo.

But as Jeriel reminds me, I should be taking advantage of my flexibility to travel on short notice. He was having as much of a milegasm as I was about this promotion and would have very much liked to up and go to Amsterdam, but with a wife and kid in tow the equation becomes much more difficult.

Today is the last day for ticketing those amazing 90% off tickets. To everyone who got one, congrats! I’ll expect those of you travelling in F to be churning out trip reports. To those who missed out, take heart. Deals come and go all the time. Such is the nature of the hobby we do. I personally can’t wait to see what sort of deals 2017 has in store!

Garuda pulls 90% award sale early, promises to honor existing award holds

Well that didn’t last long. Garuda Indonesia has pulled its astounding 90% off award ticket sale, a full 7 days before it was originally scheduled to end.

In a way, it’s not surprising. Once the deal got picked up by the travel blogs, it was only a matter of time before Garuda’s reservations hotline got swamped by people hoping to score one of its coveted First and Business Class seats (me included).

Image result for garuda indonesia first class

And you can argue about how much this promotion is really costing them (in that the seats blocked off for saver awards are usually the ones that would have gone out empty anyway) but one thing’s for sure- when this deal came out most of us knew that this was going to be a mad rush situation. No one can really say they expected this to last all the way to the 31st.

Garuda Promo Pulled

There was some initial confusion as to whether awards that were booked but not yet ticketed would be honored. It appears that the answer is “yes”, provided the issuance is done before 31 Dec. Other bloggers who have called in have got similar answers. My worst fear when I heard that the promotion was pulled was that the miles I transferred (which are now still en route to my Garuda account) would end up orphaned. But it looks like I (and anyone else who has already booked an award) should be safe.

I certainly hope no one here transferred miles before getting a confirmed seat. I guess the object lesson here is

  1. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is
  2. If it’s too good to be true and is true, it probably won’t last

Congrats to everyone who got in on this deal (and I’m expecting many trip reports, ahem), and to those who didn’t, chin up. Deals come and go. I’m excited to see what this game throws at us next.

Lifemiles is offering discounted redemption tickets, but should you bite?

I mentioned yesterday that Ben over at OMAAT had managed to wrangle a special deal for his readers. To summarise, readers from OMAAT could register at this page to

  • Buy Lifemiles at a 140% bonus (with a minimum 101,000 mile purchase), equivalent to 1.375 US cents per mile
  • Redeem Lifemiles at an unspecified discount

I registered yesterday and received a confirmation email from Lifemiles that my 140% bonus was now active.

As for the discount, well, the unspecified discount is now specified, and is it worth the hoopla? Let’s have a look.

From now till 2 Jan 2017, you can book discounted Lifemiles tickets for certain routes. It says that travel period is until Dec 2017, but does not specify exactly when in Dec (i.e. start Dec? End Dec?). I suppose if you’re trying to book and you don’t see the discount reflected, it means your period isn’t valid.

As I mentioned in my analysis, given that OMAAT’s readership is mainly American, this promotion was created with US-based flyers in mind. We can see this in the way Lifemiles has further split the USA into several sub redemption zones for the purposes of this promotion (on the regular Lifemiles chart the entire continental USA is one zone). Here’s the chart, reflecting round trip prices (one ways are 50%)-

And here are the zones covered for this promotion.

So let me start with the bad news- there is no promotion on journeys starting or ending in Singapore, or anywhere conveniently accessible from Singapore like Malaysia or Thailand. 

Image result for darth vader no gif

To be fair, I did warn you in my other article this might happen

Of course, this, like my love life, could turn out to be a damp squib. Given OMAAT’s US-centric focus, it is entirely possible that the routes on discount could be domestic US routes, or journeys that must start in the USA, or routes that otherwise have little relevance to SG-based flyers.

So I’ve been wracking my brain to see if there’s anything us Singapore-based flyers can use, and here’s my analysis. Yes, I’m mostly grasping at straws here.

(1) If you could position yourself to South Asia…

The closest destinations to Singapore that are covered by this promotion are in South Asia. Geographically speaking, the closest one is in Colombo, a 3h 50 min flight from Singapore.

Hypothetically speaking, you could position yourself to Colombo and then take advantage of the discounted rates to USA 1 (East Coast USA), which includes New York.

And as soon as I say that, the following occurs to me-

(1) If you’re positioned in Colombo (or anywhere in South Asia for that matter) your are probably going to end up with Air India award space. And we all know what happens when you fly Air India….

(2) The incremental savings don’t really make the additional costs and time to position worth it. You save 3,000 miles on business class tickets to USA 1 (East Coast USA) and 2,000 miles on first class. That’s just not worth the trouble

(2) If you for some reason needed to travel between Europe and the East Coast…

The second thing I realised is that even for US-based flyers, the promotion is quite limited. Unless you live in USA 1, you don’t have a lot of places to choose from. The only international destinations USA 2 flyers can access are the Caribbean and Brazil. Live in USA 3 (West Coast)? The only international destination you have is Brazil.

But assuming you had just finished a nice holiday in New York and suddenly had the urge to visit the UK, you could now save on First and Business Class redemptions (I imagine you’d be flying either United or Lufthansa, with a transit) to the tune below. In business class, 52,500 is a good saving from 63,000, and in first,  75,000 is a good discount from 87,000.

One Way prices. Chart from OMAAT

You can’t even use this to make the infamous SQ25/26 route work for you, because it’s usually the SIN-FRA leg that is full, while the FRA-JFK leg has availability. But given that there’s no awards available to Singapore, you can’t even use this promotion to position yourself for an easier SQ redemption.

(3) If you have US domestic travel coming up…

I’m travelling to Miami in March, but to get there I’ll need to transfer in IAH, and to get back I’ll need to transit in JFK.

Both Texas and Florida are in USA 2, so I’d be paying the following rates (read the second row)

one way prices. Chart from OMAAT.

For comparison, on Krisflyer’s partner award chart they charge the following for domestic US flights, regardless of where in the US.

one way prices Economy Business First
Partner: North America (Canada, USA ex Hawaii) -North America 12,500 20,000 30,00

You can see that I’d be paying 7,500 LMs vs 12,500 Krisflyer miles to get from IAH to MIA. Or if I wanted to fly first class (remember that US domestic first class tickets as business class, so you should look at the business class prices) I’d be paying 15,000 LMs vs 20,000 Krisflyer miles.

So there is some limited value there. I’ve already booked my travel so I’d have to pay a US$15 fee. 7,500 LMs cost US$103, and together with the LM US$25 redemption charge I’m looking at US$128 before taxes (which are likely to be minimal). If I value my Krisflyer miles at 2-3 cents each, then those 12,500 miles are worth S$250-S$375, meaning I’d be somewhat better off redeeming Lifemiles. On the other hand, I paid out of pocket for Lifemiles and my Krisflyer miles are entirely the byproduct of my regular spending.

Conclusion

I think there simply isn’t anything of value here for SG-based flyers, unless you require travel that starts and ends outside of Singapore.

In a way it makes me feel a bit better about booking my JFK-SIN return leg on my Miami trip already. If there was actually a discount on tickets to Singapore, I’d have to weigh whether the savings would be worth the US$50 cancellation fee and the time I’d need to spend on the phone with Lifemiles customer service.

TL;DR, grapes are probably sour anyway.

Image result for sour grapes fox

Are there any opportunities for SG-based flyers that I’ve missed out?

HT: OMAAT