Booking Garuda Indonesia First Class With Points

In December, Garuda Indonesia set the miles and points world on fire with a 90% off award sale. Initially, I thought this must have been a translation mistake and that Garuda Indonesia meant to discount award by 10% but, in fact, they really did mean 90% off.

The one caveat, you had to book in-person or over the phone. With exactly zero Garuda offices in the US that could confirm the booking and issue my ticket, my only shot was over the phone. Many bloggers reported that it had to be done in-person and even had other people visit a Garuda Indonesia office on their behalf.

I even wrote all about my efforts to prove them all wrong and get a ticket issued over the phone. Just 45 or so phone calls to make it happen.

Did I go streaking through my neighborhood with excitement? I guess you’ll never know.

I booked a round-trip first class ticket from Amsterdam to Jakarta for 38,000 Garuda Miles that I transferred from my Citi ThankYou Points account. Of course, I didn’t have a clue how I was going to get to Europe for the first flight at that point (we’ll talk about that another time).

With that, let’s dive into flying Garuda Indonesia first class experience.

Garuda’s First Class Team Reaches Out

Three days before my flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta, I received an email from Garuda Indonesia’s first class team to confirm some aspects of the service provided to first class passengers.

They requested information for my pajamas (size: tall athlete), dietary restrictions (keep it healthy… hahaha), limo service (yes, please!), and connecting flights (my private jet, obviously).

In our email exchange, I was told ground service (limo, lounge access, etc.) was not included at Amsterdam Schipol Airport (AMS) but I could book it for 300 Euro.

 A glimpse of a most anticipated flight on Garuda Indonesia's Boeing 777-300ER A glimpse of a most anticipated flight on Garuda Indonesia’s Boeing 777-300ER

Hard pass. Uber is easy enough.

However, I was able to reserve my limo service upon arrival at Jakarta’s Soekarno–Hatta International Airport (CGK). Additionally, I was able to provide my connecting flight info when for my return flight to Amsterdam as I would be arriving in Jakarta on Singapore Airlines.

First Class Check-in in Amsterdam

The day of my first flight with Garuda Indonesia finally arrived and it was like Christmas morning. But, seriously. I think I could have sprinted from Amsterdam to Schipol.

I arrived about 3 hours before my flight just in case I could find a way to enjoy the KLM Crowne Lounge before my flight.

I found the Garuda Indonesia first class check-in line where there was a representative waiting to greet passengers.

She welcomed me and walked me to the check-in desk where I was greeted by name. I thought I was hearing things. Are you kidding me?! I realize Garuda takes great pride in customer service but was I stalked from the moment I left my Airbnb?

 My first class ticket with an unexpected bonus - a lounge invite to the KLM Crowne Lounge. My first class ticket with an unexpected bonus – a lounge invite to the KLM Crowne Lounge.

No lounge access, huh? Garuda’s check-in staff disagree. Next stop: KLM’s Crowne Lounge.

Needless to say, I was hanging out somewhere on cloud 9 when I was handed my boarding pass and a lounge invitation to the KLM Crowne Lounge. Victory!

While I could have used my Priority Pass Select membership thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card (or one of the three other Priority Pass memberships I have from other credit cards) to access another lounge, the KLM Lounge has a much better food and drink selection.

The KLM Lounge was a lovely way to spend a couple hours before my flight. There were plenty of people but the lounge is so spacious that it never felt crowded. I had plenty of space to enjoy some sparkling wine and a few snacks and it was quiet enough to do a little work.

Garuda Indonesia First Class: Amsterdam to Jakarta

 Overcast skies be damned, I was excited to be on board Garuda Indonesia. Overcast skies be damned, I was excited to be on board Garuda Indonesia.

I left the lounge with plenty of time to spare hoping to board first and see the first class cabin before other passengers arrived. Boarding was delayed a bit – figures – but I was in a position to board first.

Unfortunately, by the time I was on board they had already pre-boarded some other first class passengers. I have two questions: 1) who are these special people? And 2) why was I not considered special? Don’t they know I spent all of $350 for this first class trip… maybe that doesn’t help my case.

I’m not sure if they knew I booked through the 90% off promo but that was the beginning of an interesting flight.

Settling Into My Seat

 My comfy first class seat with nicer pillows than I have at home. My comfy first class seat with nicer pillows than I have at home.

Once on board, each member of the crew introduced themselves as I settled into my first class suite. I checked out the amenity kit and noticed it was actually one of Garuda Indonesia’s business class amenity kits – no fancy lotions for me.

I figured this was simply a case of Garuda running out of the first class amenity kit. Stuff happens.

One of the most amusing and over-the-top aspects I’d heard about the service on Garuda Indonesia is the white glove shoe/slipper service – they actually lay out a cloth for your feet, take our shoes, put them in shoe bags, and give you slippers.

Unfortunately, they must have forgotten about me.

 I jammed my feet into the slippers with little success. I jammed my feet into the slippers with little success.

Not that my size 14 Wide feet can fit in the slippers that airlines provide anyway. Apparently, they don’t have a freak size and so I look like a fool. But dammit, I’m wearing the slippers.

 Hot towel service, a nice glass of Billecart - Salmon Brut Rose, and warm macadamia nuts is an excellent way to start a flight. Hot towel service, a nice glass of Billecart – Salmon Brut Rose, and warm macadamia nuts is an excellent way to start a flight.

Not to worry, champagne would make me forget that in no time. I quickly texted my friend and champagne expert, Gilbert from God Save The Points, to see if I had chosen well with the Billecart – Salmon Brut Rose. He approved. Apparently, it’s an excellent champagne.

First Class Meal Service

 Champagne and caviar. Nothing like a little first class luxury. Champagne and caviar. Nothing like a little first class luxury.

Once in the air, the caviar course was served (I’m not classy enough for any of this) and I tried the other champagne option, Taittinger Brut Reserve NV – just for good measure.

Gilbert was right, the Billecart is amazing so I switched back after this. I mean, if they’re pouring, who am I to turn it away?

Next up, was the appetizer. I chose Tahu tek Surabaya on the recommendation of the onboard chef (really a crew member, dressed as a chef). Other than the cucumber – I try, I just can’t get into it – it was a nice start to the meal.

I followed this with a soup course and chose the Soto ayam Mudura (a type of chicken soup), which had a quail egg in the center. I found this to be quite good.

 Garuda Indonesia shows that it's possible to have a nice in-flight meal. Garuda Indonesia shows that it’s possible to have a nice in-flight meal.

After that, it was on to the main course. I chose the grilled lamb cutlets and was not disappointed. All in all, I really enjoyed the multi-course meal that Garuda Indonesia served. And let’s be honest, it’s way nicer than anything I make for myself when I’m at home.

Next up was the cheese course because who doesn’t have a cheese course when eating dinner? I regularly do this at home too… but it’s just a block of cheddar.

With that, it was time for dessert. Before it was served I ducked away to use the washroom. When I returned, my table had been cleared.

No dessert was served. Nothing. Not even a piece of fruit.

I was sad so I drank more rosé champagne.

My Seat Breaks

After meal service had concluded I decided to watch a movie. Now, my seat had been rocking a bit since takeoff but that wasn’t too big of a deal, I was just stoked to be there. So, I reclined my seat to get comfortable and settle in for the movie.

I’d share what I watched but I can’t remember. Guess it wasn’t that great.

When the movie was over I attempted to recline my seat into a fully flat position to get ready for bed. Nothing happened… I then tried to sit up and the seat made a horrible noise. So, I tried reclining again… noise but no movement.

You ever feel like you’re somewhere too nice for you and then you break something? Yeah, that was awesome.

I took a minute to think about it and concluded that it wasn’t me. I was, after all, just sitting there.

I asked the lead flight attendant if she could help me figure it out. She tried to recline it, heard the horrible grinding noise, and stopped. She retrieved a flashlight and basically climbed over top of the seat to find the problem. At one point, I thought a little turbulence might toss her over the seat!

After 10 minutes, we gave up on figuring out how to fix the problem. At that point, she offered to me the only open seat in the first class cabin where I attempted to sleep but failed miserably.

This doesn’t speak to a lack of comfort but rather the fact that I get excited to fly and have trouble falling asleep. Think… five-year old opening birthday presents.

Garuda Indonesia’s Ground Service In Jakarta

Upon arrival in Jakarta, all first class passengers had two first class assistants waiting to escort them through the airport. This is seriously the most over the top (and amazing) service offered by Garuda Indonesia.

One took my passport and walked ahead to immigration so by the time I reached the security checkpoint I could just waltz on through. No big deal. The other first class assistant walked with me and made small talk along the way. She apologized for having trouble with English. Are you kidding me?! If I spoke a second language as well as she does, I’d randomly use it just to annoy friends on a daily basis!

Once through the immigration checkpoint, I was taken to an arrivals lounge to relax while my checked bag was retrieved… have I mentioned how much they spoil you?

 The water and cold towels thanks to Garuda's limo service were glorious. The water and cold towels thanks to Garuda’s limo service were glorious.

From there, I was escorted to my “limo” (it was a van) where I found two bottles of water and cold towels that were very much appreciated. Two minutes outside in the sweltering heat in Jakarta and you’ll know what I mean.

Amsterdam to Jakarta Recap

The staff on the ground on both ends of the trip were very friendly and quite competent. The flight was frustrating because I had such high expectations – I’m not sure they could have been any higher.

So you don’t think I’m completely off my rocker. I actually did enjoy the flight. The crew were very friendly, the food was solid and I really enjoyed the fact that first class passengers have complimentary Wi-Fi. I’d like to see more airlines do this.

When you really think about it, the broken seat was the only real functional issue, but when you hear over and over and over again how amazing the in-flight service is going to be you start to expect everything to be perfect!

If you see everyone getting freaking white glove shoe/slipper service, you expect it! Do I need it? Hell no. Do I think it would be obnoxious and fun? Absolutely.

Also, why the business class amenity kit? That just seems like a silly oversight. Do you really run out of first class amenity kits for 7 passengers?

After it was all said and done, I was looking forward to my return flight and trying the first class lounge in Jakarta.

Garuda First Class Ground Service In Jakarta Part 2

My return trip actually started in the Philippines after spending a few days scuba diving off the coast with a few friends. I flew business class on Singapore Airlines back to Jakarta after connecting in Singapore.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived in Jakarta. No one was at the gate when I deplaned, but as I walked down a hallway just outside the boarding area there were two first class assistants waiting for me.

Just like my arrival in Jakarta a week or so earlier, my passport was hurried to immigration so by the time I arrived, I could just smile and continue to baggage claim.

I couldn’t find my baggage claim receipt in my carry on but somehow with just a basic description of my bag, one of the Garuda ground crew found it and we were off to security where we jumped the line and were through in a flash. Later, suckers!

What I find fascinating about the old terminal in Jakarta is that you only reach the check-in desks after you are through security. However, we didn’t bother with that. We went to a private entrance with quick access to the business and first class lounges where there was a dedicated immigration desk.

From there, we were off to the lounge! You enter a lobby and first class passengers are escorted down escalators to ground level. It was completely empty when I arrived and would remain so for several hours. The timing of my flight from Singapore meant I was going to have a very long lounge stay.

 If it's not clear yet, nothing is standard about Garuda Indonesia first class. Not even a plate of fruit in the lounge. If it’s not clear yet, nothing is standard about Garuda Indonesia first class. Not even a plate of fruit in the lounge.

When I arrived, I was brought a plate of fruit as a snack just in case I got hungry. Having just eaten a nice meal on my Singapore flight, I knew that wouldn’t happen for awhile so I sat back and relaxed to the sounds of a self-playing grand piano. Totally normal.

About an hour into my 8-hour stay, one of the first class assistant stopped by to say her shift was over and that Larizka and Harry would be helping me during the rest of my stay.

Larizka and Harry couldn’t have been more amazing. As quite the extrovert, sitting alone in a lounge can be a bit much after awhile. Larizka saved me from that personal hell.

She stopped by to see if I needed anything – big mistake if she didn’t want to chat. I took the opportunity to get to know a bit about her experience in Jakarta and working for Garuda Indonesia.

My excitement to be flying with Garuda must have been quite apparent as she offered to give me a tour of the new terminal. We found Harry and hopped on a bus to the new terminal and waltzed through security in no time.

Jakarta’s new terminal was only operating domestic flights at the time, but it was so cool to see it. It’s almost striking how modern it is compared to the older, more traditional looking terminal.

The new terminal is massive. Larizka joked that she was going to need a Segway just to get from the international and domestic gates.

She offered to take me to the new domestic business class lounge so I could have a look around since the new first class terminal wasn’t open yet. It has a movie theater. Enough said.

Okay, it’s large TV on the wall but the chairs are comfortable and recline. I mean, come on. A domestic lounge? What is the new international first class lounge going to have, a wine cellar and a 5-star restaurant… come to think of it, yeah that works for me.

If you’re wondering why I haven’t said much about the first class lounge in the old terminal, it’s because it was very sparse. As I learned, they were in the process of moving into the new terminal. Guess I’ll have to go back!

 The seconds before I tripped off a curb because I was still plane-watching. The seconds before I tripped off a curb because I was still plane-watching.

After having a blast touring the new terminal, we skipped the bus and caught a first class shuttle across the tarmac. Seeing planes from ground level still makes me unusually happy.

Back at the first class lounge, I had a quick shower and a small bite to eat before it was time to head to the gate. This was without a doubt one of my most memorable lounge experience.

 Thanks to Harry and Larizka, the first class lounge experience was second to none. Thanks to Harry and Larizka, the first class lounge experience was second to none.

As if making me feel more than welcome during my lounge stay, Harry and Larizka walked me through security and to the gate. Larizka snapped a quick selfie of the three of us and I said goodbye to Harry.

Larizka walked me onto the plane and to my seat. Let’s just take a second to take that in… someone walked me to my seat. I’m sure she was just worried I was clumsy and would fall over after watching me stumble off a curb.

Garuda Indonesia First Class: Jakarta to Amsterdam

After such an amazing experience in the lounge (and really the whole airport), it was time to see what round 2 in first class would be like.

I’ll spare you the details that overlapped – don’t worry, there was plenty of champagne – and hit on a few of the points that stuck out to me.

First impressions, a nice first class amenity kit was waiting for me and it was definitely an upgrade.

I’m sure you’re wondering, “what about the shoe service?!”

 Thankfully, my beat up boat shoes would be protected in shoe bags for the duration of the flight. Thankfully, my beat up boat shoes would be protected in shoe bags for the duration of the flight.

Remember when I said it’s something I don’t need. That’s true. I don’t need it, but there’s no way I was passing up that opportunity. It was freaking awesome!!

My return flight was truly a great experience. I found it a little strange that they didn’t pass out WiFi passwords, but rather entered a password on my phone for me, but all in all it was great.

The seat wasn’t broken so I actually slept about 3 hours – I still don’t understand how people sleep so well on flights.

I enjoyed champagne after champagne, caviar, a lovely dinner. Yet, still no dessert. I know I’m not a small person but was Garuda trying to tell me something?! I kid, I kid.

 Seriously, airline food doesn't have to be awful. Seriously, airline food doesn’t have to be awful.

The crew was kind enough to accommodate my request for muesli in addition to my eggs and sausage for breakfast prior to landing.

We landed in Amsterdam on a slightly overcast morning and with that my time with Garuda Indonesia was done. It was time wander bleary-eyed to a Priority Pass lounge – really, it’s not as nice as the KLM Crowne Lounge – before catching a flight to Vienna by way of Munich. I’m really good at taking the long way.

Final Thoughts

Let’s get straight to the points.

This first class round-trip cost me 38,000 Garuda Miles (transferred from my Citi ThankYou Points account) + $325.16 thanks to what amounted to the deal of the year.

Like anything in life, our experience is shaped by our expectations. My first flight was fun but kind of a let down because I had astronomically high expectations. The ground experience in Jakarta was truly second to none. Larizka and Harry went above and beyond to make my stay not only pleasant but truly amazing.

The real question for me is if I’d fly Garuda Indonesia first class again at the standard award price of 180,000 Garuda Miles for a one-way ticket on the same route. My experience in the first class lounge and on the return flight really makes it tempting.

Would I go out of my way like I did to try it this time? Probably not. If I happen to be in Southeast Asia, have plenty of ThankYou Points to burn, and want to a fun experience and a stop in Europe… then yes, absolutely. With the way I travel, that might not be so far fetched.

When they’re on their game, Garuda Indonesia really does have stunningly good service.

Questions or comments about Garuda Indonesia first class? Let’s hear them below.

See you in the sky!

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