As Indonesia’s national airline announces an end to the London to Jakarta flights from the 28th October 2018, the question has to be asked: will this be permanent?
The popular route GA086/7 was the only London to Indonesia direct flight operating. Other carriers such as Singapore Airlines would take travellers to Jakarta, but only with a stop in Changi on the way.
Previously Garuda used to stop in Changi on the westward flight too, although the eastbound transit has been nonstop for a while. From October 31st, 2017, the carrier upgraded the route to offer a nonstop service, flying three times a week to London Heathrow. Served by the Boeing 777-300ER, it offered a more convenient means of reaching south east Asia, as well as easy onward connections to Australasia.
Although Garuda will continue to operate a Europe to Asia service, connections will be made via Amsterdam. UK originating travellers will need to rely on Dutch Airline, KLM, to make their initial connection. Timetable changes show that the Amsterdam – Jakarta flight, which currently routes via a stop in Singapore, will go non-stop from the date of the Garuda Indonesia flight suspension.
Why has the Garuda Indonesia flight suspension happened?
Garuda are yet to release an official statement regarding their decision to suspend the direct London to Jakarta flights, but we have an inkling that there were a couple of factors in play here.
Firstly, there’s the cost of flying into Heathrow. As the airport doesn’t allow landings between 11pm and 5am, there are only around 650 landings allowed in any one day. This means that the airport has got carriers over a barrel in terms of landing fees. This only goes to make using the London airport as a hub less and less attractive to big airlines.
Next, there’s the fact that actually, for many UK originating travellers, Schiphol is far easier to get to than Heathrow. Those in the far south, south west or anywhere oop north will find a plethora of KLM operated flights offering inexpensive transport to Amsterdam. Conversely, only Flybe and British Airways run to Heathrow, and not always cheaply or conveniently.
Whatever the reason, and we suspect a combination of both these things and probably some other factors too, the fact remains that the route will come to an end.
So, what’s the future of London to Indonesia direct flights?
Other carriers will get you to Indonesia from the UK, but there are no London to Jakarta flights which go direct. Emirates and Etihad will take you to Jakarta, although both require an often-substantial stopover in their home countries. Denpasar is also reachable through Emirates, but with a layover in Dubai which can often be overnight.
Currently the Garuda service is still one of the fastest ways to get to Indonesia, but with a hop to Amsterdam on the cards at this end, it’s going to become more expensive and time consuming than before.
Experience tells us that the Garuda situation is going to go one of two ways. Amsterdam has traditionally been the European gateway for this airline, so perhaps they are cutting costs by pulling out of Heathrow and focussing on growing their services via Schiphol. The other possibility is that they have something awesome up their sleeve, perhaps a London to Bali direct flight, which will be revealed in coming months.
Although our cup half full mentality wants to believe that the second scenario is the right one, in reality, it’s far more likely to be the first. Garuda were already showing signs of trying to cut costs, having deferred delivery of 10 737 MAX 8s in June, as well as attempting to cancel it’s order for nine ATR 72-600’s.
They also showed signs of trying to economise on their long-haul routes too, by drastically reducing premium seating on both their Amsterdam and London flights. First class from Amsterdam was axed entirely and business seriously slimmed down, as the carrier focused on capacity increases.
The likelihood is that they’ve crunched the numbers and found that London to Indonesia direct is just not viable. Amsterdam offers excellent connections to many of the UK regions, as well as capturing the continental market in a way London never could. We may be made to eat our words later, but we predict that this is the last we’ll see of direct flights to Indonesia, at least for the time being.