Air Transport World

New wings for the fabled bird; new standards of service and ambitious expansion plans have put Garuda Indonesia on the right course. (Garuda Indonesia Airways) (Company Profile)

New standards of service and ambitious expansion plans have put Garuda Indonesia on the right course

JAKARTA--A 20-hr.-plus flight from Los Angeles to Jakarta on an aging McDonnell Douglas DC-10 is a long ride even for the most ardent of fliers. The thought of such a trip on a carrier that has not had a glowing reputation in the past was depressing. But flag carrier Garuda Indonesia has done a lot in recent years to improve its image.

To and from Jakarta, ATW witnessed a greatly improved airline, a carrier that is profitable, efficient and ambitious. Most noteworthy is the improvement in its in-flight service and greatly increased maintenance capability through the Garuda Maintenance Facility. The increased role of its training facilities, the carrier's multibillion-dollar fleet-modernization plan and a new domestic and int'l terminal at the Soekarno/Hatta International Airport in Jakarta also is turning a few heads.

Years ago, Garuda Indonesia was a Third World, state-owned airline relying heavily on tourists looking to save money on int'l travel. Even as a discount carrier, it lost money, reportedly around $600 million from 1978 through 1987. Its flight crews were recalcitrant and unmotivated. Meals were described as glorified box lunches with some kind of mystery meat as the entree. In short, the airline was, well, lackluster.

Today, Garuda's Executive--business--Class rivals anything that British Airways' Club Class can dish out, ATW found. And the crews are attentive, pleasant and motivated.

On the Los Angeles-Jakarta leg, four meals were served, everything from king prawns in spicy papaya sauce to filet of sea bass with lobster and dill butter sauce.

At every stop, passengers disembarked to a transit lounge, while the airplane was cleaned. An hour later, the aircraft was airborne again. From Los Angeles, the DC-10 stops in Honolulu, Biak on the eastern tip of Indonesia, Densapar, near Bali, and ends up in Jakarta. It is the only carrier to operate direct service from North America to Indonesia. Garuda has four weekly flights departing L. …

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