It is really a fantastic turnaround for our national flag carrier, Garuda Indonesia, to have been ranked by an independent research center as the best carrier in terms of service quality in Southeast Asia, beating even one of the world’s best and largest carriers, Singapore Airlines.
Not only has its performance achieved an all-time historical record, Garuda excelled in the most important factor in the airline industry.
An airline is not simply a transportation company but, most importantly, a travel service business.
Hence, overall service quality such as passenger comfort, food, on-board and ground services and customer perception of the carrier — key indicators assessed by the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) for its service quality ranking — is key to a successful airline.
Over the past five years, under the leadership of its CEO Emirsyah (Emir) Satar, Garuda has steadily made dramatic improvements, turning its negative cash slows into high profits, modernizing its fleet, improving on-time performance, increasing load factor and aircraft utilization rates.
Yet even more important is the overhaul he made of Garuda’s staff business and service mentality and the great improvement in its safety record, as validated by its International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit certification and the European Union lifting last year of its ban on Indonesia airline flights to Europe.
Emir has also been greatly successful in restructuring Garuda’s financial and operational restructuring, which will make it possible for the carrier to go public later this year.
True, several external factors such as its big domestic market and Indonesia’s excellent economic performance despite the 2008 global financial crisis and economic recession, have also contributed to Garuda’s financial performance. That is different from Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and the Malaysia Airline System.
But even these positive factors would not mean much if Garuda had not sharply improved the quality of its service, its overall image and the market perception of its service reliability, because the competition in the domestic market has become much fiercer due to the emergence of many low-cost carriers.
Garuda’s cooperation with the government in providing immigration service on board flights from Amsterdam, Seoul and Japan shows how creative Emir has been in creating new services to improve the overall comfort of passengers.
Such service creativity not only contributes greatly to Garuda’s performance but also Indonesia’s tourism industry as a whole. (The Jakarta Globe)
Garuda came as something of a surprise, ranking better than any airline tallied thus far. There were repeated comments that the airline provides excellent value and exceeds some of its competition. “Better value than Jetstar”, being one example.
It was also clear, almost from the outset, that most passengers had low expectations and were pleasantly surprised by the reality. Garuda has had a rocky history of late and is just beginning to re-enter the European market.
Travellers were genuinely impressed by the “new” Garuda. These statements sum up the gist of many comments: “Overall Garuda is improving” and “Garuda has changed into a better airline”.
The carrier also operates a large domestic network and many of the comments were based on very short flights. Yet they did not disappoint: "Short 50 minutes flight … managed to deliver prompt and courteousservice.”
The friendliness and service-minded attitude of cabin staff received repeated mention.
The airline appears to be rebuilding itself on a firm foundation. It’s fleet is quite new and there is a sizeable order for more equipment. The challenge will come in maintaining its excellent start as it grows and becomes a more common inclusion in traveller itineraries.
The final ranking and total score:
1. Garuda Indonesia (8.48)
2. Bangkok Airways (8.4)
3. Singapore Airline (7.68)
4. Thai Airways (7.32)
5. Cathay Pacific (7.12)
6. Malaysia Airlines (7)
Source: The Jakarta Globe, CAPA website