Tag Archives: garuda

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.

Garuda is offering 90% off redemptions. How do we make this work?

Garuda has announced a 90% off award redemptions sale for all routes, all cabin classes. This is real. This is happening. The interweb is going crazy.

The biggest upside of this promotion for us in Singapore is that it excludes the majority of US-based flyers because

(1) Garuda doesn’t fly to the USA

(2) You need to physically go down to a Garuda office to ticket an award booking, and there are only a few across the whole USA

(3) According to some comments on OMAAT, Gaurda’s US offices don’t take US issued credit card (I have no idea how that makes sense, but could not care less)

Take that, you MSing, card churning, better sign up offer having yanks!

I love you guys, really. 

But their misfortune is our gain. The clock is ticking, so let’s get down to brass tacks.

Step 1: Figure out if you can get Garuda Miles

This is a non-starter if you do not already have Garuda Miles, or Citibank Premiermiles/Thank You points. That is the only credit card I know of in Singapore that allows you to transfer to Garuda.

If you don’t have Citibank points, all is not lost. Garuda allows you to buy miles at US$30 per 1,000 miles. Is this a great rate? Not really. But given how few miles you need it can still work. The main issue here is it is unclear how long the miles will take to post. Garuda lets you book without any miles in your account but you must ticket within 1 week (see point 2). If the miles come in post 31 December then you just have a nice little stash of unusable currency.

Step 2: Plan your dates

You need to issue your tickets by 31 December 2016 for travel between 1 Feb 2017 and 31 May 2017.

You will need to physically go down to Garuda’s offices in United Square Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Which means that you only have next week to get this done (and need to transfer your Citibank points today if possible)

Unless you already have leave blocked or can block leave on short(ish) notice, you might be looking at taking a long weekend and going somewhere nearer like Japan.

There are 3 potential long weekends for you to do this

  • CNY (28-30 Jan)
  • Good Friday (14-16 Jan)
  • Labor (29 Apr-1 May)

Do note that if your plans change post 31 December 2016 and you wish to change dates, you will need to pay the full award price. Therefore it’s wise to freeze those dates right now.

Step 3: Plan your route

Image result for garuda indonesia first class

Image result for garuda indonesia first class

Garuda’s new First Class is amazing and everyone wants to try it. Unfortunately it only appears to be available on 3 routes serviced by 77Ws

  • DPS-NRT
  • CGK-SIN-AMS
  • CGK-SIN-LHR

Moreover, I cannot find any availability for DPS-NRT in F during the promotion period.  DPS-NRT in F is available for revenue bookings but not for awards so they might be blocking it.

This means that unless you can free up the time (and flexibility of travel dates) to pay Amsterdam or London a visit, you’re going to be looking at business (which is still a great deal at 90% off).

When booking Garuda business you want to be careful about what aircraft you’re flying.  Garuda has full flat 1-2-1 business class on its 777Ws

Image result for garuda 777 business class

And some of its A333s. I cannot confirm which routes have them.

Image result for garuda a330 business class

However, the rest of its A333s and all of its A332s only have the old, angled flat product in a 2-2-2 configuration. This one is probably not worth trying.

Image result for garuda a330 business class

I’m sure if you do a dummy booking online and fiddle with seat selection in business class, you should be able to see what type of A330 is servicing your route. In the interest of getting this article out asap I’ve not done that.

My experience booking with this promotion

I’ve gone and locked in a trip to Japan for the long labor day weekend, more to review the business class product than anything else. As much as my heart was set on trying the First Class product (because it’s supposed to give even SQ a run for its money), I just couldn’t find the space or make the timings work. I do hope some lucky reader is able to do this (and writes a detailed guest post trip report!)

I called up the Singapore call centre and after waiting about 5 minutes got through to an agent. She was very patient and knowledgeable as we went through various permutations of routes to see what worked. In the end I booked DPS-NRT-DPS, which requires me to position to Bali. SIN-DPS-NRT-DPS-SIN was available but required an overnight stay in Bali on the way back, which really didn’t work for me. Plus, the SIN-DPS leg left at 1655 on a Friday and I probably wouldn’t be able to make that work either.

The final damage was 12,600 miles(!) plus $134.50 in taxes for the round trip. I didn’t have the miles in my account yet but she was able to hold the award for 7 days. So now all I need to do is transfer over some of my Citi TY points.

I cannot tell you what ridiculous value that is, even if I’ll need to position myself to Bali (or I could redeem miles and fly SQ to DPS with $160 of surcharges…).

Is it safe?

I know it’s inevitable that people are going to be asking this question. And although it’s somewhat understandable, it’s also annoying in the sense that we do so many things on a day to day basis that have a higher inherent risk than flying. We take car rides without thinking twice about it.

No other form of transportation is as scrutinized, investigated and monitored as commercial aviation. Here’s a good summary

DEATH BY: YOUR ODDS

  • Cardiovascular disease: 1 in 2
  • Smoking (by/before age 35): 1 in 600
  • Car trip, coast-to-coast: 1 in 14,000
  • Bicycle accident: 1 in 88,000
  • Tornado: 1 in 450,000
  • Train, coast-to-coast: 1 in 1,000,000
  • Lightning: 1 in 1.9 million
  • Bee sting: 1 in 5.5 million
  • U.S. commercial jet airline: 1 in 7 million (if you look at global airline travel the figure is something like 4-5 million. I still fancy those odds)

People generally have a very poor understanding of probability and how incredibly safe air travel is today. To hear people who have never flown the airline put it down based on absolutely no hard evidence is just upsetting.

Years ago, I would not have flown Garuda. They had a terrible safety record. They were banned from flying to the EU. But the airline has undergone one of the most amazing transformations ever. It’s started winning awards like “most improved airline” for service and safety. It is now a 5 Star airline on Skytrax (and yes we can all argue about how valid Skytrax rankings are but still) and has resumed flights to the EU. It has amazing looking cabin products on its brand new 77W and A330 aircraft.

Or as this article on Coconut’s Jarkarta site puts it

It’s hard to remember now, but the perception of Garuda used to be quite different. In the late 1990s and early-to-mid 2000s, the company was hit by financial and operational difficulties that caused its service standards suffer severely. It was even banned (along with all other Indonesian airlines) from entering Europe due to the country’s poor safety ratings.

But after that low point, the company initiated a series of programs, dubbed the Quantum Leap expansion plan, to turn the struggling airline around. Since then, its performance has consistently improved by leaps and bounds each year, earning it the aforementioned praise and awards. Buoyed by Garuda’s performance, the whole Indonesian airline industry has also seen great increases in standards, leading to the United States upgrading the country’s safety rating this year, allowing Indonesian carriers to operate routes to US cities for the first time in over a decade.

So I have absolutely no qualms about flying with the new and improved Garuda.

Good hunting everyone. Update me with what you get.