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Garuda Indonesia First Class: Was it as “Good” as Five Stars? Almost… LHR-CGK-SIN

Garuda Indonesia First Class: Was it as “Good” as Five Stars? Almost… LHR-CGK-SIN

Old Aug 23, 16, 12:09 am
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Garuda Indonesia First Class: Was it as “Good” as Five Stars? Almost… LHR-CGK-SIN

Garuda Indonesia First Class: Was it as “Good” as Five Stars? Almost… LHR-CGK-SIN


After a flight with its business class from HKG to CGK earlier this year and a brilliant report written by Fly Roni (http://www.flyroni.aero/tr047.html), I have decided to give its first class a try. I found a somewhat affordable fare from London Heathrow to Singapore via Jakarta. When I booked it, the routing was still London Gatwick to Singapore via Amsterdam and Jakarta, and the layover in Jakarta was quite long too. So I was somewhat happy to see a more direct routing with less transit time, but I prefer an earlier departure time. There had been news about a rather troublesome transition from Gatwick to Heathrow, especially the lack of Garuda Indonesia’s legendary “meet and greet” service. I am happy to report that there is a “Personal assistance” service in Heathrow, which will bring you from check in to lounge, and then from lounge to gate. There is basically top-notch ground service at all airports, and this “meet and greet” truly differentiates Garuda from the top tier airlines, like Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines, which really lack in ground service. In terms of onboard experience, the purser and F/As try really hard to make your journey as comfortable as possible, despite there is some minor difficulty in communication. Some of the F/As really speak limited English. Catering used to be quite interesting, but Garuda has cut back somewhat. The amenities remained the same as Fly Roni’s trip report, as both amenity kit and slippers are high quality stuffs. I think I am quite happy with this trip in the end, and hope you will enjoy this trip report. It may not be perfect, but Garuda first class has the potential, after a few adjustments in catering, entertainment, and some of the amenities. Here is the trip report.

August 17, 2016
GA 87 LHR-CGK Lv2110 Arr1700+1 Boeing 777-300ER PK-GIE

Full album:
http://s1213.photobucket.com/user/Ca...lassAugust2016

Booking:
Booking the ticket through Garuda Indonesia is a fairly challenging process, as I am not unable to pre-book, and despite receiving an e-ticket, Garuda emailed me a few days requesting more information about credit cards, including filling out a verification form and scanning them a copy of my credit card used for this purchase. I really have issues with asking for the actual copy of my credit card, but after contacting first class customer service and verifying that it is a legitimate process, I reluctantly emailed them. However I might just use a third party site for Garuda’s booking in the future.

First Class Customer Service via email:
One of the supposedly highlights of the Garuda’s first class experience is an exclusive email that you can contact for any request. I have actually tried to use the email services a few times, and my experiences are “while they are polite, they no longer really go out of their ways to fulfill special requests,” like previous bloggers’ experiences.
I was successful in getting a seat assignment confirmed and all those basic stuffs, but once I gave them more complicated requests, they no longer really went out of their ways. As reported, you are no longer able to reserve special dishes, in terms of both starters and entrees. In a form of a test, I tried to request amenity kit on the shorter CGK to SIN segment, as I read many other bloggers had no issues getting those items in previous shorter AMS-LGW flights, but this time, the agent just gave me the polite answer that those items are only available for long and medium haul flights, and I could not request those items even in advance. However, when I asked to see the menu from SIN to CGK, they were able to send me a copy of the menu (despite being the wrong menu). I feel that having this email service is still nice, but they are no longer authorized to do as much as before. In the end, I actually received the pajama and all those amenities, but wondered if it had to do with the crews and light load, or the first class email team no longer wants to make promise, unless they are 100% sure. I think Garuda should give this first class team more discretion because all these minor items matter, especially you are competing with some of the world’s most competitive premium products.

Check-in:



Since I came in from Leeds/Bradford on BA, I was in the check-in hall around 4:45pm. Therefore I took a few photos, while they tried to set up their check in area at Area C in Terminal Three.

First Class check-in with the signature blue carpet – it is interesting that business class uses “red,” while first class uses “blue,” which is in direct opposition to Malaysia Airlines. C-3 is the first class counter.




I was the first one to check in and the agent was efficient and polite. I was happy to report that the “Meet and Greet” personalized escort service has returned to GA’s Heathrow operation. The “Meet and Greet” agent told me that they did not really expect me till 6pm, so he was working another job when the airport manager called him at 5:30pm. The airport manager in Garuda blue’s uniform took over the job and escorted me to the fast track line. I told him not to worry about me, as I wanted to do some shopping. We had a small chat and he noted that it was my second GA flight, and after I reconfirmed that Garuda is still using the No One Lounge, I bid farewell to him at the head of the security line. I then went around and do some shopping, as well as getting a late lunch at Yo! Sushi! I don’t have faith on food on the No. One Lounge, and it ended up being a smart move.

The No One Lounge was extremely crowded on this evening hour, as most of its clients have flights departing at the late hours. Cathay Pacific is still using this lounge, as its lounge has not reopened the door yet. At the entrance, the friendly agent checked me in and I finally met the “meet and greet” agent in person. He asked if I wanted to board first or board late, I chose to board “First”. He then came back to pick me up at 8:25pm.

No One Lounge




Library – special for first class passengers






Since I am in first class (among other first class passengers), I was escorted to the library, which was blocked off. I got an enhanced menu pictured here. Champagne is still not free, according to the menu. Since I don’t want to drink, I do not find out if champagne is free for first class passengers or not. I tried the Laksa dish, which looked good in presentation, but not so good taste wise. I was glad that I got some sushi before the lounge visit.





Boarding:
Gate 31 was used today and it was a good ten minutes walk from the lounge. I had a nice chat with the agent, and while I did not need someone to roll my luggage, the agent insisted on doing it because the GA people would give him a hard time if he didn’t. But it gives you an insight to the “over the top” of service GA offers in first class. We tried to board at 5:30pm and the agent walked me to the front of the door, but the Heathrow manager sent us back, as they were not quite ready. The agent was actually upset and apologized to me profusely. He told me that the airline usually would not call him till they are ready. I told him that it was okay, but he was not particularly happy.

A quick shot of business class, before the F/A shut the curtain


The purser immediately brought me to my suite. I was the only one in first class this evening. As you could tell, everything was already pre-placed in the seats – Loewe’s Amenity kit (sorry for no pictures, but just refer to FlyRoni’s trip report, it was the same amenity kit), along with newspapers and magazines. I was later offered a pair of pajama – the size ran small and I need an XXL. The pajama was very basic and was in black color with a very subtle Garuda emblem. The two first Class F/As said their greeting, and I was offered a pre-takeoff beverage – Laurent Perrier Rose – with a bowl of macadamia nuts along with hot towel.


Then there was the classic slipper service – and the F/As kneel down and put a red cloth sheet next to your feet. They supposed to remove your shoes, but it was just too much. I then took off my own shoes and the F/A placed them under my ottoman. The slippers were indeed comfortable though.


Skytrax


Some cabin shot – really nice suites with enclosed door







Fish eye lens




Individual closet – I found out later that you could actually pull out the tube for you to hang up your shirt and pants…


Seat Control



Side storage bin – two – one in front and one in back
Front – basically literature pocket with a power outlet



Back – USB drive and various ports with storage for small items





Amenities:
1. Pajama – the worst part of the amenities. First the pajama runs in smaller sizes than most airlines, and I need an XXL.



2. Loewe’s amenity kit





3. Slippers – shown earlier


Magazines and Newspapers


Stationary set – not too impressive – they tried to do the Singapore Airlines’ thing, but stick with more basic design. Leather is cute, but the actual papers are rather plain.



The gate was quite busy – surprisingly more British and European tourists than local Indonesians – but the loading was relatively low for this 777-300ER. Despite a late boarding, door was closed on time at 9:10pm. Heathrow was not so busy at this time of the night and we took off from R/W9R at 9:31pm for our thirteen hours and fifty-five minutes flight to Jakarta.

Mood lighting


It was a beautiful night at London.


We left UK after passing Colchester and slowly climbed to 31,000ft before passing Rotterdam. Then we headed towards Hamm, Jena, Hodonin, and Nitra, before reaching 33,000ft. We then passed Vac, Hateg, Vulcan, and Sunny Beach, a resort in Bulgaria. Then we headed towards Zonguldak,Arac, Merzifon Airport, Erbaa, Patnos, Tabriz Airport, Zanjan, and Yzadairport before climbing to 35,000ft. We then passed Sirjan, Iran, and then climbed to 37,000ft. We then headed towards India passing cities of Ichalkanranji, Ballari, Anantapur, and Mahabalipuram, and then entering the Bay of Bengal and climbed to 39,000ft, and then headed towards North Sumatra. We then headed towards Sinabong, Merlung, Palembang, Simbangtiga, and then into Jakarta.

Entertainment:
The entertainment system is not as great as other major airlines, but okay enough. There is the usual array of Hollywood, Indonesian and Asian movies, along with television shows around the world. I stick with live TV, which includes BBC, CNN, Al Jazzerra, CNBC, NHK Premium, Euro News, Sky News, and 24 hours sport. I watched the Olympics throughout the dinner, and changed back to CNN after the Olympic coverage stopped for the day.



First Class got free WIFI and the signal worked out well throughout the flight, even over India, in which Qatar Airways WIFI does not work. The charge is $21USD for the whole flight. It was more than reasonable given the length of this flight. I had no problem accessing more social media websites, flightradar24 and aviation forums.

Catering:
As reported by flyertalk, Garuda has scaled back the catering for first class, as the menu was very similar between first and business class now. The only different is the additional soup course, along with one more appetizer and main course choice. I cannot compare first and business class, but compared to Fly Roni’s report, the menu no longer features Indonesian and Japanese set breakfast. However there are plenty of choices for all courses, and my request for two appetizers were granted with a smile. I was impressed with soup course, when the chef poured the soup into the soup bowl in front of passenger. The beef tenderloin was cooked perfectly, and the only disappointment was the dessert, as the apples on the apple pie were rather sour.

All the menu and wine list were presented in a leather folder, but those menus and wine lists were in rather poor shape. I know this is a “first world” problem and my personal pet peeve. I can never imagine Singapore Airlines reusing these menus in this kind of poor shape. I actually asked for a cleaner copy.

Wine list & dinner menu
Wine List
Champagnes
Bilecart-Salmon Cuvee Nicolas-Francois Champagne, France
Champagne Laurent-Perrier Cuvee Rose Brut NV

White Wines
2011 Chassagne-Montrachet Premier Cru En Virondot Domaine Marc Morey, Burgunday, France
2015 Sancerre Henri Bourgeois “Les Baronnes” Loire, France
2015 Chardonnay Fillius Vasse Felix, Margaret River, Western Australia

Red Wines
2009 Chateau Durfort-Vivens Margaux 2eme Grand Cru Classe, Margaux, Bordeaux
2008 L’Andrea, Montevibiano, Umbria, Italy
2014 Glaetzer Wallace Shiraz Grenache Barossa Valley, South Australia

Dessert wine
1998 Chateau Coutet Premier cru, Barsac, Sauternes

Sake
Eisen Daiginjo “Eishiro”

Digestifs
Dow’s Fine Ruby Port
Martell Cordon Blue

Spirits
Chivas Regal 18 Years Scotch
Glenfiddich 18 Years Single Malt
Nikka Pure Malt Black
Jack Daniels Black no. 7
Grey Goose Vodka
Myer’s extra proof Dark Rum
Gordon’s Dry Gin

Liqueurs
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Cointreau

Beers
Bintang
Heineken
Asahi (Japan flights)

Cocktails
Tom Collins
Martini

Juices
Martebe
Tomato
Freshly squeezed fruit juice, your cabin crew can help you choose from today’s juice bar

Soft
Coca Cola
Diet Cola
Sprite
Club Soda
Tonic

More Laurent Perrier Rose
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Old Aug 23, 16, 12:11 am
  #2  
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Dinner
Modern International
Pre-dining
Caviar
Prawn crackers, blinis, crème faiche
*Our caviar is farmed, in line with our commitment to sustanbility
It is interesting to eat caviar with prawn crackers.




No tray is used for any meal services, and table is set up individually. Individual breadbasket is pretty standard these days in premium cabin, but I still feel it is a bit of a waste. I prefer passengers selecting their own breads.




Appetizer
Asinan Jakarta
Pickled vegetable salad, fried bean curd, crushed peanut

Smoked ocean trout, potato salad
Salmon roe



Cold cut of smoked duck, bresaola
Tomato, ciabatta

Lumpia Semarang
Chicken and bamboo shoot spring roll, sweet and spicy sauce



Soup
Soto ayam
Traditional clear chicken soup, quail egg, fried shallot, chili sambal

Corn chowder
Tomato, black olives


Main Course
Grilled lamb cutlets, Indonesian gulai sauce
Steamed Jasmine rice, sautéed long bean, soy bean cake
Or
Seared beef tenderloin, black pepper sauce
Tomato cheese vol au vent, buttered asparagus, sugar snaps

Or
Roasted chicken breast, thyme jus
Potato dauphinoise, sautéed button mushrooms, carrot, asparagus
Or
Baked cod fillet, lemon chive cream
Grain mustard mash, sautéed asparagus
Or
Three cheese tortellini, cream pesto
Marinated sundried tomato, rucola

Chef’s cheese board
Camembert
Blue
Cheddar

Dessert
Chocolate Vanilla Come Cake
Raspberry Coulis

Warm Apple Pie, Caramel Sauce
Vanilla bean ice cream, blueberry




Dinner was completed within two hours after takeoff and I asked the F/A to set up my bed adjacent to my window seat. They placed a rather thick mattress pad on top of the seats, and I appreciate the large pillow and duvet.

Here is the picture!





A stop in the bathroom before going to sleep: It is interesting to note that Garuda only installs one bathroom in the first class/nose section, rather than two bathrooms like most other airlines. It can be problematic if there is a full load in first class.





Door closed


I felt asleep quickly and had a good five hours nap before reaching India.

As I woke up, two first class F/As came to my side and asked if I wanted breakfast yet, or could they offer anything else? I had a cup of English breakfast tea and then ordered the sate platter, which was delicious. The plate features 1 beef and 2 chicken skewers. I can tell that this dish is really authentic.





In Between Fuel
Selection of snacks for the journey ahead
Indonesian sate platter
Focaccia with mozzarella, tomato
Beef and vegetables pie
Blackberry cheesecake
Cut Fresh Fruit
Nachos, cheese and tomato salsa

The F/As were nothing but attentive and friendly. Similar to Japanese airlines’ crews, they did not make many noises in the galley. They made small chats, but in a whisper mode. Sometimes I feel that their limited ability to speak English prohibits them from saying the right thing, but you can tell that they are genuinely trying to impress you and to make you feel welcomed. They kept on asking me if I wanted more drinks and food. I gave them high scores because they kept their smiles during the flight. Since I was the only one in the cabin, I was able to have my meals at my preferred time.

I finally decided to have breakfast around 3:40pm Jakarta time. Once again the tray was set up individually with utensils and even three kinds of jam. The starters were presented in a beautiful way.



Lovely breads – Cinnamon rolls, Pain Au Chocolat & Cinnamon Raison Roll





Freshly squeezed orange juice


Breakfast menu
Breakfast
Modern International

Appetizer
Cut Fresh Fruit


Yogurt (Strawberry)


Cereal

Main Course
Coconut rice, Balinese Chicken
Marinated fried beef, sautéed vegetables, chili sambal
Or
Bircher muesli, pistachio
Dried cranberry, pumpkin seeds, and honey
Or
Dutch waffle, poached pear
Orange and caramel sauce, silvered almond, mascarpone
Or
Eggs
Freshly cooked on board anyway you wish



My choices were two-fried egg – over easy with all the side dishes except beans. The turkey bacon actually tasted very well.

With Breakfast Side Dishes
Seared vine cherry tomatoes
Roasted field mushrooms
Baked beans
Chicken Sausage
Lyonnaise potato
Sautéed asparagus
Roasted turkey bacon

Peppermint tea after a nice breakfast, especially the breakfast pastries, which were delicious


As we got closer to Indonesia



Descent soon began at 4:55pm, but due to ATC flow control, we did not land on R/W7R at 5:32pm.


We taxied towards gate E7 and parked there at 5:43pm.


Transit at Jakarta:
For first class passengers, transit at Jakarta is as simple as it can, as there is an agent escorting you and taking care of all your need. Plus there is no security checkpoint till before your departure gate. A lovely female agent was welcoming me at the jetway. As the only first class passenger, it was easy for her to recognize me. She wanted to help me with my carryon, but I insisted on carrying it myself. It was not in my nature to let anyone to carry my bags, but I noticed that other first class passengers actually let those first class agents handling their carryon. It was strange to see a tall European man, followed by an Indonesian guy rolling his suitcase but I guess it was part of the VIP service. The agent just showed my boarding pass to a staff at a checkpoint, and then we took the escalator to the departure level. The agent was very friendly, and we had a casual chat about the new terminal three and a few things. The first class lounge was empty, when I arrived, and the flight from Jakarta to Singapore had only two passengers this evening, and I was the first one to arrive at the lounge. I did not take picture of the restaurant menu, but it was expanded with more choices of snacks.

Restaurant


Piano


Main seating area






Recline seat area



Sleeping chairs



TV station – all equipped with smart TV and I can watch my own TV using my USB


Restaurant – I had a spicy ramen and a really lovely dim sum platter, which was pictured here.



Bathroom – I took a shower there, while there were nice L’Occitane amenities and towel, they should use a floor mat and hair dryer.






I had the lounge to myself for most of the three hours, and the other passenger did not arrive till an hour prior to departure.

August 18, 2016
GA 88 CGK-SIN Lv2105 Arr2350 Boeing 777-300ER PK-GIE
I did not take many pictures on this flight, as it was a relatively short flight. Plus it was on the same plane.
However, I wanted to note that the crews were actually friendlier on this flight, and despite being a short flight; they offered me all the amenities. The service procedure was similar to previous segment, but I was surprised that no menu was offered on this segment. Plus the menu that was provided to me was the incorrect one. In the end, it was okay, as there were four different main courses for me to pick from.

Pre-takeoff champagne again – Laurent Perrier Pink champagne & macadamia nuts


Newspapers/Magazines & amenity kit


Meal – supper service – all served together, but no tray was used
Potato and kidney bean salad with shrimps, choices of Ravioli, Roasted Chicken Breast, Fish, and an Indonesian dish
I chose the chicken breast, which was okay.






It was a short flight. Despite a late start, we landed at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal Three at 11:49pm and parked at gate B9 at 11:56pm.


To my surprise, there were two teams of agents welcoming me and the other passenger. It was easy for the other guy, as he was going onward to Amsterdam. The agent, who picked me up, asked me where I was going. I told him that I would fly onward to Bangkok in the morning, and was staying at the Aerotel in Terminal One. I told him to drop me off at the Singapore Airlines’ transit desk, which was okay, but he insisted on taking me to the transit hotel at Terminal One. Thankfully things were quiet at this time, and I got my boarding pass within five minutes. I had a nice chat with Dnata ground service agent, which told me that Garuda’s flights were very popular, and they went out full every night for both business and economy class. First class struggled a bit, but business and economy were doing well.

In conclusion, Garuda Indonesia First Class is a great premium product, especially in the aspects of ground service and inflight service. All the staffs are extremely friendly and polite, and they are obviously proud of their first class product. White the suite is no longer something that is super fancy, like Etihad apartments, they are comfortable and I like the enclosed design. The free WIFI is a nice touch, and I did not lose connection at most parts of my journey, and the speed was actually better than some of my previous international experiences. Onboard service was wonderful and most the amenities, except pajamas, are good quality. The catering was okay, and maybe it just needed some magic touch, like their Japanese and Indonesian menus. They need to differentiate more from business class. I definitely look forward to Garuda flying to the USA, and that will be a cool inaugural flight to fly. I hope you enjoy this trip report.



Carfield
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Old Aug 23, 16, 12:32 am
  #3  
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That's a nice report, and photos!
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Old Aug 23, 16, 1:45 am
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Some nice looking food there

Do like the proximity of the swivel chair to the fridge in the lounge with the library book wall covering
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Old Aug 23, 16, 1:50 am
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Impressive report! Thank you
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Old Aug 23, 16, 3:40 am
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thanks for the report Carfield ^
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Old Aug 23, 16, 8:15 am
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Excellent report as usual, Carfield.

It seems that cost control is underway. They are reportedly bleeding in LHR route. AMS route sounds doing good. Many people here missed the service level of previous CEO days, which bring all the attention in the first place.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 8:27 am
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Originally Posted by Carfield View Post
She wanted to help me with my carryon, but I insisted on carrying it myself. It was not in my nature to let anyone to carry my bags, but I noticed that other first class passengers actually let those first class agents handling their carryon. It was strange to see a tall European man, followed by an Indonesian guy rolling his suitcase but I guess it was part of the VIP service.
An interesting cultural difference. The American feels uncomfortable being helped to do something, they can easily do themselves. They feel that it is somehow disrespectful to the agent.

The European feels that by carrying the bag himself that he is disrespectful to the agent, implying that the agent is incapable of doing his/her job or that his/her job is unnecessary.

Not saying either is right or wrong, it is just a difference of perspective.

Having made my cultural literacy comment for the day, let me just say:

Thank you, Carfield for an interesting trip report about a lesser covered airline in FT. I have never flown Garuda due to lingering doubts about their safety, but your report might tempt me to give them a try.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 9:01 am
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Fantastic TR, thank you for sharing!
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Old Aug 23, 16, 10:07 am
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Very interesting and fascinating TR, Carfield. Great to read about the not so common carriers. Definitely looks like you had quite a pleasant experience too.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 11:42 am
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Thanks for the TR, Carfield.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 2:11 pm
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Garuda must have some very impressive Business Class catering if it is similar to what you were served! Still, for me, even if the food is similar, the caviar, difference in wine quality, and far more personalized service is enough of a differentiator, hard product aside!

Do you really think GA is at a disadvantage by not allowing special requests? I sure don't think so, as they already offer far better customer service and ground experience than the likes of Singapore and Etihad.
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Old Aug 23, 16, 2:49 pm
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Originally Posted by Carfield View Post
he insisted on taking me to the transit hotel

In conclusion, Garuda Indonesia First Class is a great premium product, especially in the aspects of ground service and inflight service.
great to hear!

Originally Posted by You want to go where? View Post
An interesting cultural difference. The American feels uncomfortable being helped to do something, they can easily do themselves. They feel that it is somehow disrespectful to the agent.

The European feels that by carrying the bag himself that he is disrespectful to the agent, implying that the agent is incapable of doing his/her job or that his/her job is unnecessary.

Not saying either is right or wrong, it is just a difference of perspective.
re https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela >
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontl.../insights.html
He always made his own bed, no matter where we traveled. I remember we were in Shanghai, in a very fancy hotel, and the Chinese hospitality requires that the person who cleans your room and provides you with your food, does exactly that. If you do it for yourself, it could even be regarded as an insult. So in Shanghai I tried to say to him, 'Please don't make your own bed, because there's this custom here.' And he said, 'Call them, bring them to me.' So I did. I asked the hotel manager to bring the ladies who would be cleaning the room, so that he could explain why he himself has to make his own bed, and that they not feel insulted. He didn't ever want to hurt people's feelings. He never really cared about what great big people think of him, but he did care about what small people thought of him. That used to amaze me. He didn't mind if he insulted a very important person, or said something to them that was unkind, because he said they could fend and fight for themselves. But he would never insult someone who did not have power."
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Old Aug 23, 16, 5:10 pm
  #14  
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Great report, Carfield. Looks like Garuda offers a really nice First Class product.

Thank you for sharing!
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Old Aug 23, 16, 5:12 pm
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Great report Carfield. I'm flying that same flight LHR-CKG in November so thanks for the preview.
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