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