Tag Archives: skyteam

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).

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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

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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

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

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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.

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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.

The Long Way to New York: Wingtips Lounge JFK & Delta to DCA

Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, Singapore
Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-BKK
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa, BKK
Thai Airways First Class BKK-HND
Getting from HND to NRT
ANA First Class Lounge, NRT
ANA First Class NRT-ORD
United Club ORD
United Economy ORD-EWR
Visiting the US Open
Sheraton New York Times Square
Hilton New York Midtown
Wingtips Lounge JFK & Delta to DC
Exploring Washington DC
Element New York Times Square West
Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, JFK
Singapore Airlines Suites JFK-FRA
Lufthansa Senator Lounge FRA
Singapore Airlines Suites FRA-SIN


After a solid week in NY it was now time to venture over to Washington DC to visit some of the most iconic sites in America and perhaps see if I could get my name on the ballot for November. Given the way this election cycle is heading, I quite fancy my chances.

For the uninitiated, Washington DC is serviced by 3 airports- Regan (DCA), Dulles (IAD) and Baltimore (BWI). DCA is the most conveniently located if you want to be around the Washington Mall/Capitol Hill area. However, Dulles has the most international connections. So if you’re flying from outside the States you’ll probably fly into IAD, and if you’re flying from within the States you’ll want to try to get to DCA.

I wasn’t able to find a United routing that worked for me (United has abandoned JFK and only operates out of EWR/LGA now) so I started looking for alternatives. I ended up booking a Delta flight for about S$236 because of Crossover Rewards.

Starwood and Delta have a marketing tie-up called Crossover Rewards.

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With Crossover rewards, SPG Platinum and Gold members earn 1 Starpoint for every dollar spent on eligible Delta flights. Plus, SPG Platinum members enjoy elite benefits when traveling with Delta, such as Priority Check-in, Priority Boarding, Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades, and first checked bag free.

crossover-rewards

My Crossover rewards benefits applied seamlessly- in the system I was already set up to receive 1 free checked bag and my name was added to the upgrade list.

Now, SPG Platinum members have the absolute lowest upgrade priority so it would take something of a miracle for you to really get one. That said, I felt confident when I checked in and saw I was 1 of 1 for upgrading to First Class, with 2 seats available.

So naturally when I checked the list 2 hours before departure I saw I was now 15 of 15. Easy come easy go I guess. Come check in, I was unceremoniously assigned an aisle seat about midway through the plane.

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I was amused that the security buckets at American airports have now become advertising mediums. It’s clever, no doubt, and I have no doubt they originally considered putting a firearm in the promotional shot for Narcos only to realise the potential issues that would have caused.

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Delta operates out of T3 and T4 in JFK. Although the system told me to check in at T3, I still ended up having to transfer terminals.

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It’s not that complicated really. You clear security at T3 and then take a Delta shuttle bus to T4. The route is very well marked out and you have nice friendly agents barking at you every step of the way so you know where you’re going.

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Delta calls its shuttle bus service at JFK the JITNEY. As I captured the lens flare on the shuttle bus I smiled to myself, knowing that I could finally produce photos worthy of the Instant Gram that young people these days use.

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I used my Priority Pass to get access to the Wingtips Lounge. If you’re flying Business Class with SQ, pay attention because this is the same lounge you’ll get access to (First Class passengers get the Virgin Clubhouse, an amazing place which I’ll write about soon)

The Wingtips lounge is located on the second level of the T4 departures area.

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Yes, it’s the village bicycle of T4, taking pretty much everyone

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The lounge can seat perhaps 80-100 people. It’s not the largest of lounges but it was close to empty when I popped in for an 845am departure.

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A quick glance at the departures board suggested the reason for the emptiness- most of the international departures from JFK take place at night. During the day JFK is mostly domestic.

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A look out the window confirmed as much

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The main attraction in the lounge is really the food- don’t expect spa treatments, games stations or anything else here.

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This was a morning flight so the choice of items reflected as much. There was cereal (why does no one offer lucky charms anymore, I wondered)

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Fresh fruit

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Yogurt

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Hard boiled eggs

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A selection of bread

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And every American’s favourite thing, oatmeal. I don’t get what the deal is. Oh, there was chicken soup too.

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The best thing about the lounge was they had the full alcohol selection out even though it was 7 in the morning.

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That’s not all. There was actually sparkling wine.

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I didn’t care that it wasn’t champagne. I didn’t care that it was probably some local brand with a french name. It sparkled, and that made it good.

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There was also a fridge full of soft drinks and beer (Tiger beer too, surprisingly)

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And a coffee machine dispensing coffee of questionable quality.

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Around the corner there is a little annex with a smaller snack selection

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The flight itself was a little more than an hour on an Embraer E-170 jet. The configuration was 2-2 in economy and I had an empty seat next to me.

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Although the plane is a small regional jet, it still had some modern day conveniences like power sockets

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Seatbelts

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And a tray table.

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And a loo.

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And soap.

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The flight was uneventful, really. There was no time for drinks or any sort of meal service. I turned on Mr Robot and tuned out.

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I’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again- when you’re flying domestic in the States and paying your own way you really should go for price above anything else. Although United would have earned me miles I could use,  their base price was just too high to justify using them. The free bag I’d get with Delta also saved another $20 or so versus flying with another airline like American.

We landed on time in DC and I just had to find the relevant authority to file my election papers with.