Each year I take a few weeks and travel and fly out to Jakarta to visit family – this invariably takes place during “bulan pausa” – or month of fasting during Ramadan in the lead in to Idul Fitri (or Eid, depending which country you are in).
The last few years have been with Garuda Indonesia’s Executive class. They have always been known for their relatively reasonable Business calls fares.
However, as Garuda’s Quantum Leap plan continues its implementation - and likewise, as both their Business soft and hard products continue to improve – I’d started to consider that Garuda cannot continue to charge so, um, reasonably (?). Surely their prices would either have to go up, or their discounted fare allocations would have to reduce.
This year they did.
The fare I was quoted this year with almost double the amount I had budgeted for. So after a quick search, I found myself with deal on Qantas which I really couldn’t pass up. The only issue was QF does not fly from MEL to CGK. Rather, this would mean a domestic hop from MEL to SYD, and then transfer across from Domestic to International, and vice-versa (except on the home run, I’d have to clear immigration and customs in Sydney and recheck my luggage back to Melbourne)
It was a shame, because I really wanted to fly GA again. Oh the other hand, Qantas is supposed to be just as good, if not better than, GA. Sure enough, part of this flight would be comparing QF against previous flights on GA - or more to the point, how 1 thing can mean the choice between one airline or another.
As this is my first international flight on Qantas since the early 80’s (and before that it used to be TAA or Ansett to Sydney, then Qantas to Jakarta HLP) I wasn’t sure what to expect. And if you are reading this Dirktraveller, thank you - if I hadn’t questioned the check in staff out my luggage status given I was flying to Jakarta, I would have only been checked in as far as Sydney! The following exchange at check in (given the check-in agent wasn’t the most talkative person. But then, who would be at 08:00 on a Sunday morning?):
Me: So will this luggage be checked through to Jakarta or do I have to go through again at Sydney?
Check in: Yes, that’s right, you’ll need to recheck your luggage in …. um, just bear with me a moment?
(quick check with a colleague, returns to desk)
Check in: My apologies, I’ll be checking your luggage all the way through to Jakarta. You simply need to take the transfer bus opposite gate 15 to the international terminal and head through customs.
Me: Really? Great. Thanks.
And viola, I had my 2 boarding passes and immigration forms.
Made my way to the Qantas club for a quick coffee (plus checking-and-rechecking-everything) before heading down to the gate.
Seat: Seat 4B
After a relatively quick boarding process, a welcome drink of fruit juice or water was offered, then we waited for pushback.
General Boarding in process ....
Close-up of Qantas Domestic Business seating (refurbished B767-300)
Welcome Drink (breakfast juice?)
I could see the CSM constantly on the phone to someone in the rear, and after about 15 minutes of hand signals from the CSM to someone at the rear, the First Officer came on to say “we had a technician of board looking into a minor issue”.
At this stage I prayed and began to rue the day I chose Qantas as the connection would be tight – no sooner had the “rueing” started came the announcement that “rear exit now closed and prepare for pushback”
|Take-off from Melbourne|
This was one of Qantas’ reconfigured Boeing 767’s with Wi-Fi streaming and an iPad stowed in each seat pocket. Which, naturally, most on board almost instantaneously took out and tried to play, but Wi-Fi had not been activated by the CSM until after take-off.
A morning tea service was offered, which a choice of the following in the Business Cabin:
- Chorizo, Halloumi, and something-else-I-can’t-quite-remember Omelette with wilted spinach and tomatos
- Fruit Salad
- Greek Yoghurt with fruit Compote
After playing around with the ipad I settled on the Iron Lady, which started to get really interesting just as we were coming into Sydney!
A quick taxi to the gate, and it was an equally quick 5 minute walk to the Transfer desk where a bus was already waiting. What I didn’t realise was this bus was actually driving us to the International terminal airside – you really don’t appreciate how huge even a small(ish) aircraft like a 767-300 actually is until you drive by the underside of it’s tail!
After alighting the bus at the international terminal, we were told to following the signs to Customs. I’m thinking as this is Ramadan there were quite a few Indonesians on the transfer bus who were coming from across the country to catch the same flight.
Quickly stopped by the Business check-in to grab an Express Path Card, and this came particularly in handy when I saw how long the standard queue was. Whereas in Melbourne everyone goes into the Pax-only zone via one entrance before queuing off, Sydney has a separate entrance for Express Path Holders.
After a quick Customs and security check. I went to one of the cafes to grab a quick coffee …. It was only as I was sipping my coffee I remembered I could use the Business lounge! No matter. I finished my coffee and made my way into the business lounge. I didn’t have time to use Melbourne’s Qantas club last year as a Garuda passenger so I cannot remember if there were many changes since 2011. However the business lounge in Sydney was a revelation, from the range of food available as well as food to order, to the Gelato bar. By this time though, I had only enough time to grab a quick Sprite, before heading out to the gate.
Equipment: Airbus Industrie A330-300
The instant I walked on, I was already making comparisons to GA. After travelling GA for the last few years, it’s hard not to.
Warmly welcomed aboard by the Customer Services Manager, I was should to my seat 4F “across the other side and down the aisle”. However, there was another female attendant standing in the corridor space to get to the other aisle doing some paperwork. She saw me coming, looked at me (no smile or acknowledgement) – then looked back down at her paper work. There was clearly not enough space for one person and his luggage to pass with another standing there, so I held my suit pack in my hand as I tried to squeeze past sideways – even then, the inevitable bump could not be avoided.
FA: Are you right?
Me: Sorry, these spaces are a bit tight
FA: Hmmm. (turns back to paperwork)
This was my first comparison. I don't know if I'm being too picky, but I did kind of feel like I was interrupting her work. Compared to a similar entrance whilst boarding GA last year, whereas in this instance the stewardess immediately moved to one side and bid me "good morning".
I made my way to 4F, my home for the next 8 hours
|Obligatory Legroom Shot!|
Buckled up, I was offered a choice of Champagne, OJ or water.
Amenity kits were handed out, as were menus. On paper, Qantas has done away with the concept of Entrée, Main, and Dessert. Rather, passengers are invited to choose from a variety of “small plates”, and “large plates” – I read somewhere passengers might wish to order a combination of 2 small plates and a large plate, or 3 small plates, etc., although I’m not sure how this would work out in logistically.
|Lunch Menu, Sydney-Jakarta|
As it turned out, after a rather quick taxi and take off, the crew commenced taking orders throughout the cabin, and were asked simply what we would like as an Entrée, and what we wanted as a Main. Orders weren’t taken from font row to rear – rather, the FA taking the orders appeared to be referencing a list and walking back and forth through the cabin taking individual orders. I’m assuming this would be in order of QFF status/ fare paid/upgrade/award ticket – perhaps someone could clarify this for me?
After a round of drinks, during which time the CSM came around to introduce himself and issue immigration forms for Indonesian Customs, tables were set individually – interesting to see not a tray in sight. First a table cloth, glasses and cutlery, followed by a platter with a bowl of salad greens, butter and dressing for the salad. Interesting to note here that compared to SQ and GF providing individual Salt and Pepper Shakers, Qantas supplied a plastic one-use “sachet” (can’t describe in any other way) (maybe they were being nicked too often? )
My choice for this flight:
Entree: Baked Spinach and Feta Tart with Green Leaf Salad
Main: Pan Fried Blue Eye with Moroccan lentils, Carrot Puree and Café de Paris Butter
Dessert: Nice Cream Vanilla and Caramel Ice Cream with Almond Praline
The food was great (and coming from someone who doesn’t like lentils or carrots – these were the “hero” of the main), the tart was great. But here comes comparison #2 to Garuda: with the exception of the Customer Service Manager, and the odd crew member from Economy passing through to help, the business crew did their job with great efficiency – but is it really that hard to smile? Watching their interactions with other passengers not only during the meal service but throughout the flight, I noticed a general lack of enthusiasm. It could be just the flight I was on: I have been on QF flights where it would be harder to find a happier bunch anywhere!
Just not on this flight.
If on the odd occasion they did smile, it was a “polite” smile (you know the type of smile - eyebrows raised/corner of lips upturned very quickly, and gone as quickly as it were made). Compared against GA, where the smiles are free and flowing. And genuine.
After meal service, lights were turned down. A good opportunity to test out the seat. Now, I know this is a matter of personal taste, but I personally do not have problem with Qantas' Skybed MkI. (The seat itself is in fact the same BAE “Minipod” product found on numerous airlines, including Garuda Indonesia’s A330-300 Fleet – just designed with the "shell" unique to Qantas). I am probably one of the rare few who does not have an issue with angled flat seats, the slight upward angle of the aircraft inflight takes away the sliding-down feeling I have read other A-netters describe (conversely, would you believe when I’ve flown in a fully flat seat – I found myself feeling like I was actually sliding backwards head first?).
The QF Skybed with mattress, duvet and pillow on the return QF42 - it is amazing the difference a simple mattress makes!
|Skybed MkI in Bed mode complete with mattress, Duvet, and Pillow|
A quick browse through the inflight intertainment …. Is it my imagination, or is QF’s international ON Q IFE selection actually less varied than its domestic counterpart? Or was it the fact this was an older aircraft than say, a A330 on the MEL-PER run? I tried to get into “Goddess” …. then found myself nodding in and out of sleep part way through!
Throughout the remainder of the flight, the crew came around with offers of various snack (fruit, chips, ice cream, etc.) and about an hour out of Jakarta, a coffee and tea service was offered with nuts or chocolates.
Skymap as we get closer - and closer - to Jakarta.
Due to heavy traffic above Jakarta we were held up about 30 minutes before coming into land, and after a short taxi we docked at the gate at just after 19:00hrs.
Recalling Dirktraveller’s earlier report on GA, the first thing I noticed was the newly renovated arrivals area, which made the area look a whole lot brighter than I remembered last year!
Being one of the first off the gate, I headed straight to the Visa-on Arrival Counter. Whilst having to apply for visa on arrival may seem annoying, there is an upside: once getting your Visa-on -Arrival, you follow the signs, bypassing other passengers who are queuing for passport clearance, and head straight for baggage claim.
After a quick wait for my luggage. It was straight through customs and out to my waiting cousins (now there was the 2 hour drive to Bandung to look forward to).
Again, for me, it was hard not to compare QF and GA for their Jakarta service.
Hard product: nearly on par (with QF’s mattress and duvet and that extra bit of comfort)
Food and beverage: almost on par (with QF, again, having a slightly more comprehensive meal and beverage listing),
Customer Service: GA
Customer Service differentiates GA from QF - and GA wins here. GA’s crews warm and genuine attitude towards their customers are reflected on every flight I’ve taken. I like to think that on QF, as a rule, almost all their services have great crew. And this is true for all the flights on QF I've taken as well. However, this is actually the first flight on QF where I have come across a somewhat unenthusiastic crew just "going through the motions" (am I pushing it by saying bored?). But then this is my first flight in QF International Business. Would I fly Qantas again? Without hesitation. Given the Choice between Qantas and Garuda? I would most likely choose Garuda.
(Again, these are all my own personal thoughts and opinions. It is very hard to sit down and write a report, and give my own personal opinions on what constitutes good service without coming across as a snob! Which I'm not.)
Again, thank you for taking the time to read my first report. Any and all feedback and suggestions appreciated (having said that, please be gentle, it IS my first time )
[Edited 2013-08-09 08:48:08]