also including my experience with Stena Line's Rail & Sail package, Overnight Ferry from London to Amsterdam - see Post #2
This Trip Report is the second of a series of six, beginning with the Final MD11 flight. Check out all the Trip Reports of this series!
- TR'14 1/6: KLM Last MD11 in J, US CRJ PHL-YUL-AMS
- TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW in F
- TR'14 3/6: KLM 747s New J:AMS-BKK,HKG-AMS,AMS-ORD
- TR'14 4/6: Thai AirAsia, Nok Air, 3rd-class train
- TR'14 5/6: Emirates A380 BKK-HKG (F Suites)
- TR'14 6/6: To Macau on TurboJET & Cotai Water Jet
TR'14 2/6: Garuda Indonesia B77W AMS-LGW in F
After arriving from YUL on KLM's Final MD11 flight, I completed customs and immigration into the European Union, and arrived to Garuda Indonesia's check-in area, only to find it had not yet opened. Ten minutes later, and I was the first person to complete an in-person check-in today. I had purchased this ticket through Delta, on 006 ticket stock, to be able to get Medallion Qualification Dollars on Delta SkyMiles. A side effect of this is that I could not select a seat or check-in in advance. At airport check-in, I requested a window seat, checked my bag, and was given a cardstock boarding pass in a Garuda Indonesia First Class boarding pass holder. I was also given an invitation to the lounge - KLM's Crown Lounge; since GA is a member of SkyTeam, they share KLM's lounge at Schiphol. The check-in agent said something about boarding time being 09:45, due to EU daylight savings time having ended, but UK daylight savings time continuing. I wasn't sure the exact departure time of GA88, and my boarding pass only listed 09:45 as the boarding time, with no departure time or arrival time on the pass, so I was a little confused about the correct boarding time, but didn't worry about it. After check-in, my First Class experience began as another agent personally escorted me to immigration to exit the EU. With no line, I was quickly through. At Schiphol security isn't centralized; instead, security screening takes place at each gate individually, something I hadn't seen before. The agent continued escorting me all the way to the KLM Crown Lounge before bidding me farewell. So this is what it's like to travel in First Class as opposed to Business Class. I only just got off my first ever Business Class flight, and now was onto my first ever First Class flight. It was also my first flight with Garuda Indonesia, my first flight on any sort of Boeing 777, and my first flight into London-Gatwick.
In the Lounge I found a wide array of food and drinks, with everything complimentary. Also, the Lounge was huge! And there were people everywhere. Having just gotten off my flight on the MD11, an overnight flight where I slept through breakfast, I decided to have a light breakfast and then take a shower. I requested a shower through the automated system, and was assigned a number. While I waited, I had breakfast. This was my first airport lounge shower, and it was a great way to wake up and feel refreshed after an overnight flight. I could get used to this!
Breakfast in the KLM Crown Lounge:
KLM Crown Lounge Private Shower Room:
Garuda Indonesia GA88
Sunday, October 26, 2014
Seat: 1K First Class
After this leisurely time in the Lounge, it was getting close to the time that the GA inbound plane was due to arrive to the gate. The lounge had no view of this particular gate, and I figured that I had just enough time to walk to the gate to see the aircraft arriving. I got to the gate area just in time, and saw my Boeing 777-300ER pulling up.
Garuda Indonesia Boeing 777-300ER arriving in AMS:
At the gate in AMS:
Today's 777-300ER was PK-GIA. Built in 2013, she was delivered to Garuda Indonesia in June of that year. By now it was almost 09:45, the stated boarding time on my boarding pass, so I decided to hang around the area. Security had not yet opened, so I could not access the gate area, so I waited outside of security. Soon enough, security opened, my boarding pass was scanned, and I was one of the first to go through screening into the gate area. Schiphol has US-style full body scanners, but interestingly, they allow shoes to remain on. I guess the full body scanner isn't the reason they must be removed in the US. I got into the gate area but the plane wasn't boarding yet. Instead, I had no idea when boarding was even going to start. It was after 09:45, the time on my boarding pass, but the plane wasn't boarding, and showed no signs of boarding. The flight crew hadn't even boarded yet. I settled into a seat and waited for boarding to begin.
View of PK-GIA from the gate area:
It was actually a pretty long wait until boarding actually started. The boarding time of 09:45 was very incorrect; that was simply the time that security opened. With no other boarding time, and no departure time on the boarding pass, I hadn't known any better, and had waited in the gate area far longer than I should have. Pretty annoying, when the KLM Crown Lounge was at my disposal.
I was finally able to board. Boarding was through Door L2. As I entered the plane, a flight attendant escorted me to my seat. We turned left and walked through a mini-cabin of Business Class into First Class, to my seat 1K. I placed my backpack (my only carry-on) under the ottoman in front of me (instead of the seat on front of me!) Garuda Indonesia's First Class aboard their 777-300ERs consists of eight seats across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. Today there were three passengers in First Class: 1A, 2G, and myself in 1K. Each seat is in its own cabin with sliding door, coat closet, huge flat bed seat, wood trim, ample storage compartments, and a giant IFE screen. There is also a touchscreen control for the seat and screen, and you get three windows to yourself. As I settled into my seat, I found it to be very wide and comfortable, with plenty of legroom. I could hardly reach the ottoman, which is part of the seat when it's a bed, and which allows another passenger to dine with you in your cabin.
Entering the First Class cabin:
My seat 1K:
Welcome IFE Screen:
Touchscreen Control for Seat & IFE Screen:
Overhead view (overhead bins only above center seats):
Looking all the way across to 1A - only 4 seats across a widebody jet:
Already in my mini-cabin were a selection of newspapers and magazines, noise-cancelling headphones, and a large amenity kit, hardly necessary for a short flight like this, but a nice touch all the same. A flight attendant, in a traditional Indonesian uniform, offered me a pre-departure beverage and snack. She offered fresh-squeezed orange juice or champagne, and I asked for one of each. She also brought fresh warm macadamia nuts. As she brought each item, she asked if she may place it in my cabin, and waited for me to say yes before she served me.
Pre-departure beverages and macadamia nuts:
Oh. My. God. This was the most delicious pre-departure service ever. I could not believe how delicious the warm macadamia nuts were! The champagne was good as well, and the fresh squeezed orange juice was also very delicious. Nothing compares to fresh squeezed orange juice! I thoroughly enjoyed each item of my pre-departure snack. I cannot recommend those macadamia nuts enough! Fortunately, a flight attendant came and asked if I wanted a refill. I wanted a refill of all of them! I quickly had another set of macadamia nuts, champagne, and orange juice to enjoy while the rest of the plane continued to board. After relaxing and settling in, enjoying the nuts and beverages, it was almost time to depart, so a flight attendant appeared and asked permission to tidy my cabin and secure items before departure. We pushed back at 10:53, almost ten minutes late, but I wasn't one to complain. I changed my watch to 09:53, since the UK is an hour different from the EU. The Boeing 777-300ER provided a quick and powerful takeoff, not a surprise considering it has such huge engines.
Right after takeoff, lunch was served. There were no menus or choice of lunch, but I didn't care since it was a full service on such a short flight. Flight attendants arrived and asked to set up my table. It really wasn't a tray table, as it was almost the size of an actual two-person dining table, finished in dark wood grain. Another flight attendant brought lunch: cold salmon and salad, fresh fruit, and a warm roll, served together with a glass of water. Lunch was pretty good, and if you consider that a full lunch was just served on a 228 mile, 1h05 flight, well it was great. I never heard of a meal service on such a short flight. As I neared completion of my meal, a flight attendant asked if I wanted anything else to drink. I decided on one more glass of champagne. She brought a second flight attendant, who asked permission to serve the champagne. After he had left, she came back to tell me to enjoy. I appreciate that this is attentive, First Class service, but honestly it was a bit over the top for me. Asking permission to set something on my table before you set it, having two people to pour one glass of champagne, yeah it was over the top. I am not used to such treatment. I think I preferred KLM's business class service. KLM's flight attendants were polite, friendly and professional, but not over the top like on this flight. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I didn't like Garuda Indonesia's service. It was clear they put a lot of effort into making it a special and unique experience, and after all, it was First Class, not Economy or Business. For me personally, it was just a bit too much.
My view of England from 1K:
We were already starting our descent into the London area. We landed at 10:46, making this flight only about 45 minutes. On our way to our gate, I saw a British Airways B737-400, a classic aircraft soon to depart BA's fleet. And I saw several Virgin Atlantic B747-400s. These too will leave Virgin's fleet in the coming years. Upper Class on Virgin's 747 is one of the flights I most want to take right now, so I hope I have the chance before they're retired.
British Airways B737-400, sorry it's blurry:
Virgin Atlantic B747-400:
We arrived to the gate, and the jetway was moved to Door L2. Flight attendants held back all passengers to let First Class leave the plane first. As soon as the three of us left, we found a gentleman in the jetway with our names displayed on a tablet. He was our escort to immigration and baggage claim, and he was to see us to our onward transportation. First time I've ever been met at a gate like this! He walked us directly to immigration. Unfortunately this meant I would miss the opportunity to walk Gatwick's bridge over the airport, and I wouldn't get to do any cool planespotting from that unique vantage point. But this is part of the First Class treatment, so I couldn't turn it down. At immigration, we were escorted right up to an agent, bypassing the line. I filled out my entry card and we proceeded to baggage claim, where the bags hadn't even started arriving yet. After a short wait, bags started arriving. But mine wasn't one of them. We were waiting and waiting, and the other two First Class passengers already had their bags, and we were still waiting. The wait was already feeling excessive, and I felt bad making them wait for me, so I insisted the escort take them where they needed to go, and he said he'd come back for me. I continued to wait and wait. My bag was one of the very last to come onto the belt. I don't believe I have ever waited so long for a bag before. All the more surprising since I was one of the three people in First Class. Bag in hand, I waited a little while for the escort to come back, but gave up and left on my own. He had already explained to me where to find the train service to London Victoria, so I cleared customs and headed there on my own.
Gatwick, fighting to be the recipient of London's new runway:
Arriving into London Victoria Station:
Overall I was satisfied with this flight and I enjoyed it very much. Now that I've flown it, I will admit that First Class on a 228 mile flight is not necessary, but it was likely to be the only time I fly that product with Garuda Indonesia, so I don't regret it. The pre-departure service was by far the most delicious I've ever experienced. The whole experience overall, though, was a bit too much for me. While it was certainly a great flight, and I would certainly recommend it, it is not going to become my favorite flight ever. Garuda Indonesia is trying very hard to be a first rate airline, and they put a lot of effort into great service on this flight. Some people aren't sure how long this fifth freedom route will last, so if you want to try a new airline on a short route like this, do it while you can. Please go on to Post 2 of this thread for my return trip to Amsterdam onboard Stena Line's overnight ferry.