Flight Test: Garuda Indonesia – the world’s friendliest airline?

Garuda Airline, Boeing 737-800

Garuda Indonesia, the national airline of Indonesia is ranked as a 5-star carrier by Skytrax. I chose Garuda Indonesia for a recent flight from Singapore to Jakarta, to see if they are worth the hype.


Singapore to Jakarta Flight Path
Today’s route took us over both South China and Java Seas

Pre-flight services

On this route, Garuda Indonesia offered pre-selected seating for AUD20 and the option to request a special meal via their website, for free. My website experience was quite clunky and slow both on my laptop and on my Android phone. If booking via a travel agent, they can assist with these requests in most cases.

What a ticket buys you

Garuda Indonesia is a full-service airline. The cost of the cheapest “promo” ticket on international flights entitles you to 30kg baggage on most routes. This also allows you a meal, drink and access to inflight entertainment. Seat selection on promo fares come with a charge which is variable by route.

You are eligible to earn frequent flyer miles via Garuda Miles or possibly with a SkyTeam alliance member depending on the fare class you book (I will cover fare classes in an upcoming article!) As I’m a not a member of Garuda Miles or a partner program, I didn’t earn any miles for this flight.


Check-in was inside Terminal Three at Singapore’s Changi Airport. The staff were joyful, polite and efficient. As Garuda is celebrating 70 years of operations, passengers who checked in at manned desks received a small gift package consisting of a muffin and orange juice, a small yet nice gesture.

Garuda Check in Gifts
It’s little things that make massive differences in the perception of comfort and service…


Boarding was called by row number, however sadly this was ignored by nearly everyone and not enforced. As this flight was 90% full this caused a minor delay with the mad scrum at the gate.


Like all Boeing 737s around the world, seating was in a 3-3 configuration. The seats were well padded with a fabric covering. As this was a short flight and someone was already sitting behind me when I boarded, I did not test the recline. Legroom was surprisingly spacious, I still had plenty of knee and foot room despite my 194cm frame and my backpack at my feet

To be exact, the seat pitch (distance from the front of your seat to the back of the next) is advertised as 32 inches, yet felt slightly more. Seat width is 17 inches.

Beware if you’re on this aircraft as part of a long haul journey; there is no seat back power. You will need to bring your own power bank if you’re needing to charge your devices en route.

Cramped Seating

My lanky legs at a 90-degree angle with my backpack under the seat

Food and beverages

Even on the short 81 minute skip down to Jakarta, a full meal with dessert was served, along with a full choice of beverages. All food and drinks are included in the price of your ticket on Garuda. Dinner was a choice between chicken and pasta; or fish and rice. I requested the fish and was delighted with my choice.

Served with metal cutlery, the fish was in mild South East Asian curry sauce, cooked perfectly. This was amazingly flavoursome and juicy. The meal was accompanied with bread, a side salad and a jelly topped strawberry mousse. With nothing left on my tray, I washed this down with Indonesia’s number one beer, Bintang – served in a 375mL can.

Garuda Airplane Food


The seatback entertainment contains a handful of comedies, documentaries and Hollywood movies. The touchscreen was quite difficult to operate, needing a fair press of the screen to get a reaction. At times the system registered my request incorrectly and ended up in the games section instead of comedy! Once playing, the ads were minimal and the video playback was very good.

Live TV is advertised however did not work on this short flight – I could go a couple of hours without seeing the news anyway. Wi-Fi isn’t installed on the Boeing 737; keep an eye out for this on the Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s.

The seatback pocket contained the standard safety card, general health information and the monthly airline magazine, Colours.

Garuda Entertainment
Watching Sheldon and the gang on the 9-inch touchscreen seatback TV

Cabin Crew

Garuda Indonesia has been voted as having the world’s best cabin crew for five consecutive years, and deservingly so! All flight attendants worked tirelessly, fully serving a near packed plane in under 60 minutes. They did this with a smile, professionalism and with genuine care for the customer.

One random observation

Most aircraft row numbers start at number one and logically follow through the order of numbers to the last row of the aircraft. Yet Garuda Indonesia starts their first row of seats at “row 6”; and I was seated in “row 42” despite there actually only being 28 rows of seats on the plane. Oh, but I scored a sweet front row seat to an incredible sunset and lightning show!

Make sure you follow me on Instagram to see more amazing photos like this!

Overall impression – Is Garuda the friendliest airline?

Many airline experiences are diminished on shorter regional routes, yet Garuda Indonesia provided a fantastic level of service and comfort from the very moment I checked in, right through to saying goodbye in Jakarta. I highly rate this airline and will look to use them on a future long haul trip – watch this space!

Flick me a like on this article and let me know in the comments: what are your experiences with Garuda Indonesia? Was your journey as incredible as mine?

Feature image snapped during upon boarding of this flight at Changi Airport, Singapore
©tylergoesplaces 2019

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