What a day with this crazy Garuda Indonesia promo!
In most situations, 90% off award tickets warrant a booking frenzy. When you add in the fact that the award tickets are for a great airline with one of the best First Class product out there, the excitement is well deserved. However, as those of us based in the US might be finding out, there is some truth the age old saying of “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Language Barrier? 90% Off? 10% Off?
When the promotion was first publicized, there was speculations that Garuda meant to offer a 10% off discount, not a 90% off discount. Everyone, myself included, thought this was too good to be true. I thought about potential language barriers, and that Garuda may have been doing a straight translation that resulted in a wording error.
However, that quickly turned out not to be the case. Garuda was really serious about offering 90% award tickets across all cabins, on all of their flights (pending availability). Yay!
Well, yay, if you are able or willing to position yourself to one the cities served by Garuda Indonesia, since they don’t currently serve the United States. Anyway, I digress.
How Many People Does it Take to Create A Garuda Indonesia Account?
Most people probably don’t just have a Garuda Indonesia account laying around, so most were creating one just for this promotion. Unfortunately, there seemed to be a ton of problems in terms of entering a US address in the registration process.
Solutions quickly popped up, though. Some suggested putting in a fake address and then changing it once the account is opened, others recommended alternative browsers. Regardless, this was a minor hurdle in the grand scheme of things. Still, it’s frustrating.
Another initial hurdle about creating an account concerns the membership card. I was told by two separate agents on the phone that you’d need to bring the original membership card to the ticketing office, and I confirmed with both of them that they meant a plastic, physical card. Part of this might be my fault—I try my very best to verify information I publish on this blog, but it looks like Garuda would accept an electronic version of the card via their smartphone app for award redemption after all.
You can showing your GarudaMiles membership with accessing Virtual Card on Garuda Indonesia Mobile App. Thank you. – Harry
— Garuda Indonesia (@IndonesiaGaruda) December 22, 2016
Nothing About the Booking Process is Instant
Most of us were probably thinking of transfer Citi ThankYou points into Garuda Indonesia as soon as we saw the promotion. Garuda has been mostly a theoretical and not really practical transfer partner of Citi ThankYou, and after adding the feature of online award bookings, this was its chance to shine!
Well, the transfer from Citi ThankYou isn’t instant. With the mentality of “if I can get the miles in my account first, I get to book first,” many people preemptively transferred their ThankYou points over. I have done the same thing—I make transfers into Singapore KrisFlyer far in advance, just so I can be the first to book when the schedule opens. But in this case, as more details about the complicating booking process became apparent, it seems like the early birds actually got the short end of the stick.
Well, what if you just buy Garuda Indonesia miles straight out? Garuda allows you to buy points at US$30 per 1,000 miles, but you had to fill out a form (in PDF) for it, and the form included no way for you to send it back. Garuda Indonesia representatives initially said that you could buy points from any ticketing office, but quickly clarified that you have to buy it from the Head Office in Jakarta. And there’s no timeframe as to how long that might take.
Let’s say you are one of the (I’m guessing) two people that had Garuda Indonesia miles in your account. Even if you are armed with miles ready to go, you still can’t book these awards instantly, because the promotion isn’t available online. This means you have to ring up Garuda Indonesia’s call center. Unfortunately, the phone menu tree can get stuck in a loop, and the system hangs up on people after a 2-minute wait, so you’d have to cross your fingers that someone picks up within 2 minutes. Once you manage to put a ticket on hold, you get to physically get to a ticketing office.
Well…there’s only one big problem with that.
You Have to Visit a Ticketing Office to Book…If You Can Find One
Garuda Indonesia’s website lists a number of ticketing offices worldwide, with four in the United States listed. You probably know them by now: Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York.
Well, you see, most of these offices have actually been closed…for good. A number of FlyerTalk members found that out the hard way:
Tried to find the Chicago office during lunch, but the building reception had never heard of them. Apparently, the entire floor is occupied by Level3 communications.
Calling the contact number led me to a frustrated agent who said she couldn’t give out any addresses, and to call the +62 number for mileage questions.
Good luck all…
An update for Chicago flyers: the ticketing office has apparently closed in Chicago, and the airline didn’t know.
NYC – went to the address listed, it’s an office building and the security agents in the lobby said there were no airlines in the building.
Other tweeted at Garuda about their US office situation.
Even if the offices technically exist, they are either unable or unwilling to process award reservations, which kind of makes visiting them pointless.
I called the NYC office, he was pretty adamant that they do not take walk ins, and also they are unable to ticket award mile bookings. Meaning, I don’t think the NYC office will work for us… any know differently?
Also, I called the Houston office and they said they do not handle award reservations… this seems so weird…
Personally, I have called both the Amsterdam and London offices, and neither (1) have any idea about this Garuda Indonesia promo, (2) handle award reservations, nor (3) have access to Garuda Indonesia membership information.
I know some people have actually considered flying to a ticketing office to book the tickets, and the only advice I can give is: call the office you plan on visiting before heading there. If it’s not operated by Garuda Indonesia, chances are they won’t be able to ticket your award.
We Probably Weren’t The Target Audience for this Garuda Indonesia Promo
In most situations, 90% off award tickets would warrant a booking frenzy. Somehow Garuda Indonesia turned that into a giant time sink, and ultimately an unappealing promotion.
To be completely fair, those of us in the US probably weren’t the target audience for the Garuda Indonesia’s promotion from the get go. The airline doesn’t even fly to the US, and most of the offices in the US seem to be defunct or unable to handle award bookings.
I am willing to give Garuda the benefit of the doubt, that they did not intentionally make this promotion so difficult to take advantage of. However, it’s hard not to admit that they probably planned this promotion to be announced last minute, and last for just one week, so that only a very small number of people can actually take advantage.
What Garuda Indonesia Should Do, But Probably Won’t (Have To)
From a frequent flyer/travel blogger/travel hacker/points and miles enthusiasts standpoint, this is certainly extremely frustrating.
I think Garuda Indonesia can help rescue their reputation in award bookings by expanding the promotion so that it can be booked online, and/or extending the promotion so folks have some time to figure out what to do, or maybe get to a Garuda office. I don’t think there’s actually a chance of either of those things happening, but hey, one can dream…
If their goal is publicity, they’ve already got it (albeit pretty bad publicity, though some say any press is good press). If they aimed to get people to transfer Citi ThankYou points into their Garuda accounts, they probably got a number of them. If they are in financial trouble, I am not sure how running a promo like this one helps them. If they intend to gain awareness about their frequent flyer program, that may be better accomplished by bumping their sign-up bonus up from 200 miles. If they wanted to let people sample their premium cabins at a significantly cheaper price, maybe try a fare sale next time?
Finally, though, I have to give a shoutout to Harry from Garuda Indonesia on Twitter and Facebook Messenger. He probably had no idea his overnight shift would turn into this mess…
Did you transfer Citi ThankYou points for the Garuda Indonesia promo? What do you think of the promotion in general?