After a five year break Garuda have reintroduced direct flights from Brisbane to Denpasar, a win for locals!
Strangely the flight time is not all that different when compared to Sydney (about six hours) but it's a huge advantage to avoid a trip to Sydney (and Sydney's international airport) simply to get to Bali.
The downside of the daily direct Brisbane route is that the planes are the smaller 737-800 NextGen and don't have Garuda’s fabulous in flight customs service. Improvements at Denpasar's airport have made this more of a luxury than a necessity but who doesn't like a treat? My best tip here is follow George Clooney in 'Up in the Air', never queue behind families because they have too much luggage and always queue behind Asians because they wear slip-on shoes. Makes sense to me!
A spokesperson for Garuda says increased demand may see larger aircraft with the customs service used on the route but this could come at the cost of daily flights.
An advantage of travelling on the 737s on this service is that load requirements for the aircraft size over the six hour route mean that the plane always travels sub load so you can be guaranteed of a little more breathing space on board.
I've been caught out booking cheap flights to Bali before that end up travelling via Darwin where I was able to spend too much time ’enjoying’ a totally closed airport in the wee hours of the morning. This flight leaves at a very comfortable 8.45am, meaning an airport arrival at around 7am, and then flies direct to Denpasar in six hours, arriving mid afternoon local time. The return Denpasar Brisbane flight leaves late at night so you arrive, theoretically, just in time to start work in the morning, bright and fresh at around 7.30am.
Another advantage of travelling Garuda is the enormous luggage allowance of 30 kilos in Economy and 40kg in Business Class but free cartage for another 23kg sporting equipment. No reason not to take the surfboard and golf clubs now.
Ever wondered what goes on behind the curtain, this time a deep maroon colour, in executive class?
I usually travel at the rear of the plane so it was a pleasure to discover the perks and privileges that come from paying a little more.
First surprise is that my executive class ticket also allows me access to the Qantas Club where there are magazines aplenty, a buffet full of food and drinks on demand. I happily sit there waiting for the departure time to draw closer.
Second is the box of premium Max Brenner choccies that are my boarding pressie. Don't go getting too excited - this was the inaugural flight treat.
Garuda says this is a full service flight and the l'occitane lip balm in the comfort pack agrees. I find more l'occitane in the lavatory which is kept scrupulously clean by the smiling flight attendants.
I love the cool, damp welcome aboard towel, a very Asian gesture, and drink which starts off the hospitality. Next there is a bowl of moreish nuts to nibble.
Another surprise - Lunch arrives and it's three courses of very palatable food. There's a small smoked duck salad (see the first photo) and a choice of three mains. I picked the spinach stuffed chicken breast with an Italian tomato and olive sauce, potato rosti and creamed broccoli. Just in case I was still hungry, a selection of two cheeses, a fresh bread roll, and an individual chocolate tart also await. I'm offered a choice of white or red wine and then tea - wait for it- brewed in a pot so it actually tastes like tea. Awesome! There's a totally decadent chocolate truffle to finish.
Did I say finish? No here comes a small tub of creamy ice cream.
My travelling companion, who ordered a vegetarian meal, is not quite so enthused about her vegetable patty or the duck salad. But, as she says its great to see the colourful vegetables and they are almost al dente.
Garuda's Denpasar lounge has free wifi (a little patchy during my visit) and a buffet where you can enjoy a light meal. Upstairs are comfortable lounge chairs that would even be suitable for a snooze.
I could certainly get used to flying business class. Apart from the food, there's so much more leg space and the elevated foot rest is very kind on my legs.
One suggestion Garuda - I would like to see a better selection of movies in the in flight entertainment selection - some more light hearted movies to balance the action thrillers please.
Even flying 30 minutes between Bali and Lombok there are obvious advantages in Executive including getting off the plane first and more roomy seats. The Garuda Lounge at Denpasar airport had enough in the buffet for a comfortable meal while I waited for the flight home. There were plenty of seats, some long enough to lie down on.
Sleeping while still upright is always tricky but I managed a decent rest on the way home, thanks to a cosy blanket and thick pillow.
Bottom line: Recommended for it's good service, well timed arrivals and departures and selection of extras.
Best tip: If you can stretch to it - go Executive or Business class. It's definitely a smoother ride.
Disclaimer: Ed+bK travelled as a guest of Garuda.