As a First Class passenger I was collected from the Ritz Calrton Mega Kuningan by a pre-booked S Class Mercedes, arranged by Garuda. We departed at 4:30am since I didn’t want to risk the traffic and was hoping to get to the lounge before it filled up with other people.
Let me tell you this. I think I may well have set the land speed record for an airport transfer to Soekarno Hatta airport. I pulled up to the terminal at around 4:45am. It was so early that none of the First Class porters were even waiting outside yet.
At this point I was introduced to Herlina, my personal assistant. She took my boarding pass and passport and offered to help with my bags as she escorted me through security and passport control (both of which were completely deserted).
We arrived at the First Class lounge only to find the reception empty. Herlina simply lifted the red velvet rope and let me in, escorting me through the doors and into the facility beyond.
The coffee was great (as you’d expect in Java…) but the Balinese rice was really bad. It had clearly been reheated in a microwave and the chicken was not safe to eat since it wasn’t hot all the way through, I took one bite and left the rest. The server didn’t ask if anything was wrong with it, I guess he already knew…
After that disappointing breakfast I decided to head to one of the semi-private pods and get some work done, passing the smoking area and the VIP Lounge on the way. I’m not sure what the criteria for accessing the VIP lounge are but this just seemed to be another standard looking sitting area within the confines of a meeting room.
The design of the semi private pods has a lot of positives: the screens are big, the seats are large and comfortable and the tables can be moved around at your convenience. However, the power sockets aren’t universal, the design is too open around the sofa chair (where most similar designs have a wall surrounding you) and worst of all, the screens didn’t work at all.
A member of staff tried to tune the television in but to no avail. I couldn’t watch TV and they didn’t have any HDMI cables for connecting your own media. Eventually a manager came over to apologise for the fact that none of the pods had functional TVs but he didn’t really seem to know what to say and honestly the whole interaction was a bit awkward. Thankfully the fruit that I ordered to the pod was quite a bit better than the Balinese rice.
Around 90 minutes before departure Herlina came to talk to me. She asked if I’d prefer to board early or late. Since the lounge wasn’t exactly party central, I asked to board early and she returned around fifteen minutes later to take me to the plane.
I had high hopes for this lounge. Garuda are regarded as one of the best airlines in the world and are famed for their ground services. Having a PA throughout the pre-departure process is fantastic but once you get to the lounge it all starts to unravel quickly. The food selection was limited and the Balinese rice was probably the worst a la carte dish I’ve ever had in any airport lounge. I assume that there was no alcohol served as a result of it being Ramadan, although this didn’t stop the lounge at the Ritz Carlton.
The decor is quite elegant but something about this lounge is just off, the lack of views really doesn’t help as there is no real atmosphere to speak of. Other First Class lounges have at least one thing to make them stand out, whether it’s the stunning architecture in the Al Safwa, bedrooms in the SWISS F lounge ZRH, massages at the Thai First Class Spa in BKK or even the high quality of the LPGS champagne in the Concorde Room.
The Garuda lounge is sterile and boring, with malfunctioning hardware and poor food.
Don’t arrive early for this.