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While travelers have been losing their minds to book the Garuda 90% off award promotion today, they might have first taken in a viewing of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Greed bring madness brings ruin.
Word broke of Garuda’s self-titled Best Deal of the Year: 90% off awards on Garuda flights using GarudaMiles. Open to all Garuda flights and all classes of service. Book by 12/31/16 and fly 2/1/17-5/31/17. Call to book or stroll into one of your friendly Garuda sales office: the US has 4!
People who have never had a GarudaMiles account, let alone redeemed from one for a Garuda flight, trumpeted it as “possibly the best legitimate mileage deal I’ve seen in my entire life.”
Let’s pause for a reality check:
- Are you an aviation geek who must fly every airline/type of aircraft/cabin of service and willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen? If yes, then this deal is for you.
- Are you based in, or happen to need a flight from, the handful of the long and medium-haul destinations Garuda serves? If yes, then this deal may be for you.
For everyone else, this may be a pass even if as advertised. Let’s say you want to fly Garuda First from Tokyo to Jakarta and you are in the US. Well, then you need to get yourself to Tokyo first. Cash tickets are not usually free. Award tickets US to Japan are not much cheaper than US to Southeast Asia. You can end up spending a lot to position yourself for these flights.
What worries me is people clearly unprepared for dealing with Garuda. These are the people who say, “I just transferred miles from Citi ThankYou to Garuda. Now what do I do?”
A few words on Indonesia travel:
I don’t deny that Indonesia is my least favorite country to travel (though seeing orangutans was cathartic). Let’s differentiate fly in to Bali, transfer to resort, lay on back for a week, transfer back to airport, fly out of Bali, from the experience of traveling the rest of the country.
Indonesia is many wonderful things, friendly people, excellent food, etc, etc, etc. However, no one claims it is easy. It is a crowded, chaotic place that just barely seems to avoid bursting at the seems. Infrastructure is woeful and weather routinely rips places apart.
I have made 7 or 8 trips over the years and the ratio of things going wrong to time spent is the highest of anywhere I’ve been. It brings back memories to see reader comments in posts on this deal frustrated that the Garuda call center puts you on hold, then disconnects you. Not just Garuda and not just the system: that is a standard move for customer service agents, too!
If you haven’t tried to purchase a cash ticket on an Indonesian airline, first to find most websites do not sell them, then of those that do, that most reject non-Indonesian credit cards, then this ‘deal’ may be a lot of agony for which you are unprepared. (Here’s a non-torment way to book Indonesian flights. Bonus: here’s the fun redeeming AirFrance KLM Flying Blue for Garuda.)
I’ll trust others that the Garuda First Class flight experience is nice. I have flown economy only and that is much like other major airlines. Get off the plane and it is a different story, or I should say, get on the plane because especially for domestic flights, you can have little confidence that it will operate to schedule.
My most recent trip last month amazingly held together, even on a day of 3 Garuda flights Sorong-Makassar-Jakarta-Singapore, because each onward flight was delayed roughly as much as the prior. As a SkyTeam ElitePlus I might have had a few minutes in Garuda’s flagship Jakarta lounge if connecting passenger transit was at all organized.
I will spare the rant about what it took to accomplish the transfer. Better than two years’ prior in Bali where the airport then only allowed international-to-international transit when flying Garuda, while everyone else had to brave the wall of visa on arrival people just to go back around and re-enter security.
This Garuda 90% off award ‘deal’:
If you are going after this fast-moving deal, you need to read in detail the experiences of other travelers. One Mile at a Time travelers are among those most avid to chase around the world for premium cabin travel so bookmark this post. Read in detail Enoch’s post at Point Me to the Plane, CAUTION: More Information on the Garuda Indonesia deal.
Most of all get used real quick that if you are accustomed to US customer service, this is a whole another concept. It took me years living in China to shake off my American naivete to understand what customer service is and is not there. Don’t expect a Nordstrom ‘customer is always right’ and ‘no questions asked’ policy.
A partial list of items picked up so far:
- To sign up for a GarudaMiles account, you may need to try different browsers and different ways to enter the address; if your city is not listed try to type it in the blank field if one displays or maybe try American Samoa as country
- This is not bookable online, though you can search award space online
- Garuda twitter has confirmed the deal and so have some call center agents, while sales office agents may not know of the deal or be unwilling to book it
- You may need to go in person to a Garuda sales office by 12/31 to ticket
- You may need to bring your original GarudaMiles card to the office, which takes weeks to mail to new accounts; a printed card or the Garuda app virtual card may or may not be accepted
- You may be able to buy miles from Garuda, though the process does not specify processing time (and we’ll see how difficult they make it to use non-Indonesian credit cards)
- You can transfer to Garuda from Citi ThankYou, which takes around 48 hours
Readers, what have been your experiences with this ‘best deal ever’?