Garuda Airlines recently joined Skyteam and thus is now a new travel partner for big mileage programs like Delta and Air France. I wasn’t planning on doing too much research on the matter but then realized it would be useful for clients trying to get around Asia. It just so happened that I was working with someone trying to go to Bali – we ended up booking Cathay First to Hong Kong, then Garuda from Hong Kong to Bali to Tokyo, and then United returning from Tokyo. Here’s what I found out about Garuda.
Searching for Award Space
You can’t use delta.com to search for Garuda award space (and why would you want to), so the best thing to do is to search Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue website. If you don’t have an account you can sign up for Air France here or for KLM here; they’re essentially the same program.
After that searching for award space is pretty straightforward, just navigate to “Book an Award Ticket” or “Book a Flight with Miles” (it depends what portion of the website you’re at but you can find it!). Then it’s just a matter of searching each segment as a one way and knowing where Garuda flies to/from. Remember, Wikipedia is your best source for the latter information.
One of Garuda’s hubs is Denpassar in Bali (DPS). Looking at Wikipedia, they fly direct to DPS from both Hong Kong and Tokyo, exactly what we were looking for. To search for the award space, I did two simple one way searches using the Flying Blue website. Flying Blue creates a nice calendar of all the award space available.
Since Garuda is a partner airline, if it’s bookable on Flying Blue (and thus on the calendar) then it’s bookable with Delta (or any other Skyteam partner). There was tons of business class award space for two (but not economy strangely enough) on both HKG-DPS and DPS-NRT throughout the entire month of August. Remember, once you find flights you want the best practice is to write the flight number, time, and date down. Arm yourself with that information before you book.
Deciding whether to use Delta or Air France
My client had the luxury of having a very diverse portfolio of points and miles. He had enough miles in Delta to cover the trip and enough Membership Rewards points to transfer to Air France. Since Delta allows open jaws, HKG-DPS-NRT is a legal routing. I called Delta and the itinerary priced out to 50,000 miles and about $45 in taxes and fees per person (and remember, no one way awards until 2015). Meanwhile, Air France wanted to charge 75,000 miles and ~$220 in taxes and fees per person. Both prices were for the same business class seats. This is the very definition of a “no brainer”, and a reminder that having a diversified points portfolio opens up these kinds of opportunities.
Booking the Garuda Award
If you want to use Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue, you should just be able to book the award online, although it’s worth noting I received errors every time I tried to do this. My hypothesis is because I didn’t have enough miles in the account but I’m not sure. You could always call, but that’ll add to your fees.
With Delta, you must call to book this award since the space is not searchable or bookable online. I asked the agent to waive the phone fee due to that very fact and was successful. You can call Delta’s main number at 1-800-323-2323. Wow for the first time I just realized how easy that is to memorize! I digress…
Garuda Indonesia is a useful addition to Skyteam since it now allows you to book intra-Asia flights. Search for award space on Air France but try to book through Delta to avoid high taxes and surcharges. Of course if you are connecting them to an award from North America you can use Garuda to get you where you want to go (Skyteam now has another option to Bali that has tons of award space). Those Skymiles you have lying around just found another use!