Haha, Good Luck With The Garuda 90% Off Award Promotion

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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.”

Garuda 90% Off Award Promotion

Let’s pause for a reality check:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)

About 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’?

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5 years ago

This reminds me of our ordeal with Garuda not too long ago, when all airlines’ flights were cancelled for days on end due to volcanic activity and having to stand with thousands of other Garuda pax in chaotic airport lines for > 14 hours overnight to get our tix changed, while most folks on other airlines received smooth service.
Indeed … nowhere else to turn to when things go wrong !


[…] Travel Chai wrote a hilarious article about this frenzy. Kudos, sir, […]

Christine Hall
Christine Hall
5 years ago

Aw snap, Stefan! Way to ruin Christmas. I was all set to take the Chinatown bus from DC to NY just to buy a RT ticket to Bali. I’ll be living in Asia as of 3/14 so it looked like it might be a good deal for me. Already running into issues with the address, getting the card, etc. Just as you said. My greedy little self hates letting this one get away though.

Stefan @ Rapid Travel Chai
Reply to  Christine Hall

Not intending to, just when I heard the news of a Garuda deal I could see what was coming. There are so many cheap flights in Asia that you’ll be able to take advantage of, sure it would be fun to snag one of these to try out the luxury, but you’ll have so many great things to do, one indulgence more or less may not even be noticed.


[…] Okay so that was all the good news – are you ready for the bad news?  I think Rapid Travel Chai summed it up the best with his article: Haha, Good Luck With The Garuda 90% Off Award Promotion […]


[…] can have a selfie in a flat bed seat sipping Krug and eating caviar, no thanks! This post has some warning language about Garuda and Indonesia in general. Of course it would be more useful if some blogs were called out by name that were going […]

5 years ago

I could not agree more with you. This “great deal” is not for normal people that have lives. Yes, if you have time and nothing to do you may be able to spend hours on the phone calling Indonesia, fly to a place where they have an office and be lucky they will issue you the ticket, then buy a ticket to Europe since Garuda does not fly to the US so you can get ready to fly your amazing deal to Jakarta (I’ve been there more than 10 times and don’t miss it a bit) in the middle of… Read more »

Pablo Z
Pablo Z
5 years ago

Steve, I don’t think they even fly first from CGK to TYO any more. They have the first service only on the DPS-NRT route now.