Garuda Indonesia is one of the handful airlines that have a 5-star Skytrax rating. Their First Class product has been pretty coveted, at least in the points and miles blogosphere. This is partly they have a great product, but they fly very few routes with First Class, and tickets are notoriously hard to book; you literally had to visit a ticketing office in person to book an award ticket. Well, it looks like you can now redeem Garuda Indonesia miles online!
Booking Garuda Indonesia Award Tickets Online
You will need an account with Garuda Indonesia to use the booking tool. The functionality is somewhat built into the traditional booking tool, but instead of clicking either of the red buttons after filling out your search criteria, you just click the text “Redeem Miles” link.
Up until now, you can search for Business Class and Economy Class award availability on Delta, FlyingBlue, or ExpertFlyer, but there really wasn’t a way to search for First Class award availability that I knew of. Redeeming Garuda miles was also a pain, since you had to call to put your ticket on hold, find and print out an award booking form, and then physically visit one of their ticketing offices with your passport to get your award itinerary ticketed. This online booking tool will hopefully save a lot of footwork.
Lack of Lucrative Redemption Options…
Garuda Indonesia is a partner with Citi ThankYou, so you can transfer points earned from cards like the Citi Prestige to Garuda Indonesia at a 1:1 level.
Unfortunately, Garuda Indonesia miles aren’t particularly valuable, in that there aren’t a lot of good redemptions. They do have a distance-based award chart, so you could potentially save miles on short-haul flights. For instance, they charge 15,000 miles for a flight under 1,000 miles in distance. So for Delta domestic flights that fall under that, you could save some miles compared to what Delta’s rates are. However, their booking process is extremely complicated, and I don’t think it’s worth the trouble for the most part.
For longer routes, their rates aren’t very competitive, either. For example, they charge 61,000 miles for a Business Class flight from Bali (DPS) to Tokyo (NRT).
For the same flight, Delta charges just 40,000 miles.
The one important use of their miles is really to redeem for a flight in their First Class product, since you won’t be able to do that with most other airlines. However, they only have a handful of destinations (Jeddah, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo, Bali), and the rates are pretty outrageous. For example, a long-haul flight from Amsterdam (AMS) to Jakarta (CGK) will set you back 190,000 miles one-way! For the same amount of Citi ThankYou points, I can book a round-trip ticket from New York to Singapore in Singapore Airlines Suites.
I should note that one seemingly obvious alternative is to redeem Korean Air SKYPASS miles. Korean Air does have an award chart for SkyTeam First Class redemptions, and they actually only charge a (theoretical) 150,000 miles round-trip for Jakarta to Europe. Unfortunately, they don’t have access to Garuda’s First Class award fare bucket.
Even if you redeem ThankYou Points for travel through their booking portal, 190,000 points will still translate into $2,527 (1 point = $1.33). I personally value ThankYou points more that that, I think you’re much better waiting out for a sale of Garuda Indonesia First Class, which is actually happening right now. Still, this is an option if you have the miles to burn and don’t want to pay cash.
Many Limitations Still Exist, and Takeaway
I played with the booking tool for a while, and you can only redeem miles for flights on Garuda Indonesia metal. The airline joined SkyTeam in 2014, but it doesn’t look like the online tool will let you book flights on SkyTeam partners. In my experience, the website will also show you an error message if there is no availability. However, if you “landed” on a day that does have availability, it will show you a 7-day calendar flanking your desired travel date, including the date(s) where there’s no availability.
Online redemption is a welcomed addition for those who want to redeem Garuda Indonesia miles. However, the feature is still kind pretty rudimentary, and the redemption rates are very high. Still, if you have been able to derive value from Garuda Indonesia miles, this is definitely a development in the right direction.