Garuda Indonesia announces nonstop service to Amsterdam from its Jakarta hub, but stalls direct service to London.
By Rachel Will
On Wednesday national flag carrier Garuda Indonesia officially joined the SkyTeam airline alliance following three years of restructuring to meet the qualifications for entrance. Garuda consumers can now enjoy benefits such as 1,064 codeshare destinations, access to 550 global SkyTeam lounges, and potentially lower prices due to synergies between airlines.
Amid the spirited celebrations, Garuda quietly announced that its highly anticipated direct Jakartaâ€“London route will once again be stalled, and would be operated not as a nonstop but as a connecting flight after their new direct Jakarta to Amsterdam route is launched May 29, 2014.
Garuda originally postponed the launch of its London service launch last November when it was discovered that the runway at Jakartaâ€™s Soekarno-Hatta Airport was not strong enough to carry the load of a full B777 aircraft with passengers, fuel, and cargo. The news of the Amsterdam stopover may surprise some customers who already hold tickets for the Jakartaâ€“London flight.
â€śWhen we first started we were thinking about going direct, but looking at first joining SkyTeam it makes more sense for us to go direct and make use of Schiphol [Amsterdam Airport] as the hub,â€ť said Garuda president and CEO Emirsyah Satar in an interview with members of the media.
â€śSecond, I think with the current economic situation we figured out it would be more wise for us to go via Amsterdam first and eventually, probably later on, go direct. It all depends how the market is.â€ť
Satar and Erik Meijer, the airlineâ€™s executive vice-president of marketing and sales, both noted continued difficulty with securing agreeable time slots at Londonâ€™s Gatwick Airport.
â€śWe have four slots now and everyday a different slot and sometimes that means we have to leave for Jakarta at three oâ€™clock in the morningâ€¦ itâ€™s impossible to sell,â€ť said Meijer in the same press meeting.
â€śWe are focusing on when can we get five consistent slots on the five days we are going to fly to London.â€ť
The five-times-weekly Amsterdam route will be serviced with an Airbus B777-300ER, marking the airlineâ€™s nonstop return to Europe almost seven years after the airline was deemed unsafe to fly by EU air safety experts.
The route will be the only nonstop flight from Jakarta to Amsterdam, one of SkyTeamâ€™s largest hubs, also marking a win for Indonesian consumers and a point of pride for the national carrier.
â€śThe new route will allow Garuda and its SkyTeam partners to close the gap with the major Gulf carriers, which now offer competitive one-stop products from Jakarta to Europe and the Americas,â€ť said Brendan Sobie, chief analyst for the CAPA Centre for Aviation.
â€śHavingÂ the only nonstop will give GarudaÂ a competitive advantage.Â There should be sufficient demand to support this new nonstop flight, particularly taking into account the connection opportunities in Amsterdam for Garuda now that it has joined SkyTeam.â€ť
Sobie, however, is less optimistic about what the changes to the London route will mean for consumers.
â€śSwitching the flight times and adding a stop in Amsterdam would be an inconvenience to those customers already booked as this would come on top of the original delay. There is some concern about consumer credibility going forward. Garuda will have to work hard to win back the impacted consumers.â€ť
Satar maintains that the stopover in Amsterdam will still provide Indonesian consumers with the fastest and most convenient route to London. The same plane will be used throughout the entire route, so no additional transit or exit from the plane is required.
The additional stopover does weaken Garudaâ€™s London route visâ€“Ă â€“vis other competitors. Many Southeast Asian and Gulf carriers offer one-stop service with connections Indonesian consumers are already familiar with.
Along with the new Amsterdam nonstop route with planned connection to Londonâ€™s Gatwick airport, passengers can also expect nonstop service to Mumbai and Manila from Jakarta to begin inÂ the fourth quarter of the fiscal year, in addition to a Frankfurt service planned for 2015.
For more information, visit Garuda Indonesia.