Garuda Indonesia says recent moves to boost its premium offering are starting to bear fruit.
The airline’s vice president of inflight services Lou D’Alessio says the focus on lifting the standard of Garuda’s product and service, both in the air and on the ground, ensures its Jakarta hub stays competitive with the likes of nearby neighbours Singapore and Hong Kong.
“Traditionally, maybe five or six years ago a lot of the Indonesians would go overseas via Singapore on Singapore Airlines but we are seeing the trend now coming back,” D’Alessio said in an interview.
“They are starting to use Garuda more because of its improvement in the quality of the service, improvement in the inflight services and new aircraft and so on.
“We are getting a lot of these people coming back to us now that we once flying out to other destinations via Singapore.”
Garuda’s Airbus A330 widebodies that fly from Melbourne, Sydney and Perth feature fully-flat seats in business class, while its Boeing 777-300ER fleet that operate to Europe, Japan and the Middle East is configured with eight first class suites at the pointy end of the aircraft.
The Skyteam member started offering first class from the middle of 2013, when it took delivery of its first 777-300ER and D’Alessio said the take-up has been strong, particularly on Japanese routes and to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
“Our first class is running at about 75-80 per cent of capacity,” D’Alessio said.
Garuda has also invested in an upgraded ground experience at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport for premium passengers, with personal escorts, limousine service and new lounges.
Moreover, D’Alessio said a new 380,000 square metre terminal for Garuda at Jakarta due to be completed before the end of 2015 would further improve the transfer process for transit passengers.
While Bali remains a popular leisure destination for Australians, Japanese and Koreans, D’Alessio said Jakarta continued to grow as a destination for business-type travel.
“There is a lot of government work going on now too so a lot of the government employees are flying up and down between Australia and Indonesia,” D’Alessio said.
“As more Australians invest in Indonesia we are seeing that the market is getting bigger and bigger each year.
“The mainstay is still the leisure market to Bali and places like that but Jakarta is becoming a very important point too.”
Membership of the Skyteam alliance has also boosted Garuda’s route network through interlines and codeshares with KLM/Air France out of Amsterdam for European destinations and Delta Air Lines out of Tokyo Narita for North American points.
Both KLM and Air France also serve Indonesia.
It has not all been plain sailing for Garuda however, with the airline recently flagging some route cuts and aircraft returns in response to a weakening Indonesian currency and market conditions.
As a result, Garuda will exit the Brisbane-Bali route from February 1, leaving the market to Jetstar and Virgin Australia.
Further schedule changes to Australian and European routes – following the exit from Brisbane Garuda’s Australian network comprises flights to Melbourne, Sydney and Perth – were expected in the period ahead, while some new routes such as Jakarta-Nagoya have been postponed.
Garuda posted a US$206.4 million loss in the nine months to September 30 2014 due to competition from competitor airlines and the previously mentioned currency changes, with the bulk of the loss due to a poor first half.