Airline review: Garuda Airlines economy, Sydney to Jakarta via Bali

THE FLIGHT

Garuda Indonesia Economy Class, Sydney-Jakarta

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-300, which has 215 of its 257 seats in economy class. Garuda Indonesia currently has 196 aircraft in its fleet and flies to 83 destinations worldwide.

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Jakarta

LOYALTY SCHEME

GarudaMiles is free to join and allows frequent flyers to earn and redeem miles on 20 member airlines in SkyTeam, the world's second largest airline alliance (after Star Alliance).

CLASS

Economy, window seat 37A

DURATION

Seven hours and 23 minutes. We depart two hours late because of a lengthy check-in process due to the eruption of Mt Agung in Bali, which closed Denpasar airport for two days. Garuda handles the disruption well; when my Sydney-Denpasar flight the previous day was cancelled, they provided Sydney residents with taxi vouchers and out-of-towners like me with accommodation at Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour, airport transfers and an $80 meal allowance.

FREQUENCY

Garuda flies direct from Sydney to Jakarta five times a week and daily via Denpasar, Bali.

SEAT

The brown patterned seats with turquoise headrest covers are in a 2-4-2 configuration so you're never more than one seat from an aisle. They're 17 inches (43 centimetres) wide and have a pitch of 33-34 inches (83-86 centimetres) and there's a USB port under each seat.

BAGGAGE

The checked baggage limit for economy passengers is 30 kilograms; GarudaMiles members get an extra five to 20 kilograms depending on their membership level. The carry-on limit is seven kilograms.

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COMFORT

Calming classical music is played over the PA during boarding and cute paper-like amenities kits are handed out after take-off, containing socks, earplugs and an eye mask. Every seat also has a brown fleece blanket, turquoise pillow, an over-ear headset and a 330-millilitre bottle of water.

ENTERTAINMENT

The seatback screens are on the small side, but the touchscreens work well (there's also a remote control in the armrest) and the entertainment system is good to go as soon as we board. Because my flight the previous day was cancelled minutes before take-off, I cross my fingers for good luck and listen to David Bowie's Space Oddity ("commencing countdown, engines on …") The movie selection is modest (there are just 14 new releases in English, for instance) but there's something for everyone. There are three magazines in the seat pocket: Colours, the Garuda inflight magazine, and the entertainment and duty-free shopping guides. Inflight Wi-Fi is free for the first 15 minutes, $US5 for 20 minutes and $US21.95 for the entire flight.

SERVICE

I can understand why Garuda has won Skytrax's World's Best Cabin Crew award four years in a row, most recently in July 2017: the flight attendants on this flight are the epitome of friendly, quiet efficiency. And their uniforms are all cool, Asian elegance: long, slim patterned skirts (almost all the flight attendants are female) and bright orange, blue and purple fitted jackets.

FOOD

Drinks and meal service begins two hours after take-off, but my "chicken with rice" lunch is worth waiting for (the other options are "chicken with potato" and "beef with rice"). It's a surprisingly tasty curry made with tender chicken pieces, beans, mushroom and eggplant, served with rice; on the tray there's also miso soup, a warm bread roll, a pasta salad, crackers, cheese and a mini raspberry cheesecake. An hour before landing, we're offered Mango Weis ice-cream bars.

ONE MORE THING

Garuda's Wonderful Indonesia Travel Pass gives travellers up to 30 per cent off domestic flights to seven Indonesian destinations including Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and Padang. See garuda-indonesia.com

THE LAST WORD

Flying with Garuda, even in economy and during the Mt Agung volcanic ash crisis or perhaps because of both these things, its reputation as a "5-star airline" (for two consecutive years) and one of the world's top 10 airlines (for four of the past five years, at the Skytrax World Airline Awards) seems well-deserved.

Our rating: ★★★★

Louise Southerden travelled as a guest of Southern Sea Ventures.

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to Bali

See also: World's best airlines named as Qantas hits its lowest ranking

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