As a member of the global SkyTeam airline alliance, Garuda Indonesia is independent of both Qantas and Virgin Australia, which means you can’t earn points on Garuda flights through an Australian loyalty program.
Whether you regularly fly through Indonesia or just roam there in your downtime, here’s what you need to know about GarudaMiles to make the program work for you.
Along with Garuda flights, you can also earn points when flying across the breadth of the SkyTeam alliance.
To or from Australian skies, that includes Taiwanese-based China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Delta, Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines.
Further abroad, you’ll also find GarudaMiles useful with Aeroflot, Air France, Alitalia and KLM, among others.
There’s no joining fee, so just head to the Garuda website to enrol.
(When registering, don’t forget to tick the “sign me as GarudaMiles…” option, else you’ll only create login credentials to receive email updates from the airline.)
Once you’re all set, be sure to include your GarudaMiles number with all future bookings to start reeling in points.
Speaking of points, your miles expire exactly three years from the date on which they were earned, so if you earned 5,000 miles on August 1 2014 and 2,500 miles on August 15, the first batch would expire on August 1 2017, while the second set faces extinction on August 15 2017.
However, if you’re at the lowest frequent flyer tier (Blue) and go a full calendar year without earning or redeeming any miles, they’ll disappear on New Year’s Day.
Put simply, if you earn miles at any time throughout 2014 but don’t earn or churn any in 2015, they’ll disappear on January 1 2016, rather than remaining in your account for the normal three year period.
You’ll start off at the base-level Blue tier, and as you begin to fly more with both Garuda and SkyTeam, you’ll move up through the Silver, Gold and Platinum levels.
How far you progress is decided in one of two ways – either through the distance you fly (‘tier miles’) or the number of times you step on board a Garuda or SkyTeam flight (‘eligible flights’).
Tier miles generally mirror the number of regular, redeemable miles you’ll earn on your travels, although like Qantas status credits, tier miles can’t be swapped for free flights or upgrades.
With Garuda, you won’t earn any tier miles on the cheapest economy fares, although non-tier-mile-earning tickets in the V, H, S and G ‘fare buckets’ still count towards your tally of eligible flights.
You’ll earn the most tier miles in first and business class, while most eligible economy fares earn less than one tier mile per actual mile flown.
Along with Garuda’s extended SkyTeam family, tier miles can also be picked up when travelling with Etihad, although not with other partners such as Jet Airways and All Nippon Airways (ANA).
In a slightly more restrictive way, eligible flights are only counted against your SkyTeam travel – so Etihad voyages won’t earn you any ‘eligible sectors’ in the program, also known as ‘tier frequency’.
After amassing just 10,000 tier miles or 30 eligible flights in a calendar year, you’ll move up to GarudaMiles Silver status.
That’s easily done when flying Sydney-Jakarta-Amsterdam and back on some of the more flexible fares, even in economy.
Silver frequent flyers can check an extra 5kg of baggage on Garuda flights – handy if you travel with heavy equipment for work or like to shop…
These members also enjoy priority check-in at Soekarno–Hatta (Jakarta, CGK) International Airport, along with priority waitlisting when a reservation can’t be confirmed or if travelling on standby.
Piling up 30,000 tier miles or 30 eligible flights within a calendar year nets you a shiny GarudaMiles Gold card.
There’s also a fast track option to Gold through the EC Plus program, although membership is only open to those with an Indonesian address.
Not to be deterred, on that same Sydney-Jakarta-Amsterdam route, a single return business class trip will get you over the line, earning 31,476 tier miles on the 20,966-mile journey.
At the Gold level comes access to all of Garuda’s domestic lounges and Garuda’s two international Executive Lounges in Jakarta and Denpasar (Bali), with one guest if flying internationally.
While Silver members have priority check-in at Jakarta Airport, Gold members can use the Executive Class (business) check-in desks worldwide, and receive priority baggage handling and a 15kg allowance above the standard checked baggage limits.
Furthermore, Gold-grade guests are higher in the pecking order when waitlisting or on standby and reel in 25% more points (‘award miles’) – a similar concept to Qantas’ ‘status bonus’.
With SkyTeam Elite status, extra benefits also apply when flying with Garuda’s partner airlines, including an extra baggage allowance of 10kg or one extra piece – although that doesn’t apply in economy with Korean Air or on Delta within and between the USA, Canada, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and to/from Brazil.
Priority check-in, seating and boarding is also standard across the alliance.
At the very top of the ranks is GarudaMiles Platinum, yours after 65,000 tier miles or 65 eligible flights in a calendar year.
Over and above the Gold tier, Platinum-grade travellers can take a guest into both domestic and international lounges, can check an extra 20kg of baggage with Garuda and pay no refund or cancellation fees when a fare permits these.
With SkyTeam Elite Plus status, the doors to most SkyTeam partner lounges open up worldwide with a guest in tow, including the Korean Air lounge in Los Angeles and the soon-to-be combined lounges in Sydney and Dubai.
Across the alliance and even with Garuda, Platinum guests can make a guaranteed economy reservation on sold-out flights if booking at least 24 hours before departure on a full-fare ticket – a great perk if you need to travel at the very last moment.
Where you can’t grab a last-minute seat on the day of departure, you’ll be treated with high priority when stuck on standby or a waitlist, which still improves your chances of making the flight.
Earning award miles with Garuda
On a return trip from Sydney to Jakarta, the number of award miles you’ll pick up depends on the type of fare you’ve booked and where you’re sitting on board.
Business class passengers grab 10,260 award miles on the return journey, while 10 of the cheapest economy fares earn nothing, and only the two most expensive earn a full one point per mile.
If you’re travelling onwards to Amsterdam and back on Garuda’s direct Boeing 777-300ER flights, you’ll pick up a further 21,216 award miles in business class, 10,608 award miles on a K-class economy fare, but still nothing on the cheapest tickets.
To make sure you book a fare that earns points, first hunt down the ‘fare basis information’ link during the booking stage…
… then, locate the first letter of each flight’s ‘fare basis’:
Finally, compare that letter against the GarudaMiles earning rates to see how much you’ll earn
Redeeming award miles with Garuda
Award miles can be redeemed for flights on Garuda and its raft of airline partners, although flight upgrades are only possible with Garuda.
On that same Sydney-Jakarta journey, a business class ticket costs 63,000 miles in each direction, while economy sets you back by 35,000.
If you’ve bought confirmed tickets, upgrading to business class is also a great way to use your miles.
You’ll burn fewer miles upgrading from the higher-priced economy tickets – that’s anything in the Y, B, M, K, N, Q and T ‘fare buckets’ – and more from the relatively inexpensive V, H, S and G seats.
Between Sydney and Jakarta, 21,000 miles gets you bumped up to business class in each direction from a more expensive ticket, while it’ll take 35,000 miles from the cheap seats.
When booking your flights, be wary of fares in the E, U, X, O, Z and L ‘buckets’, as they’re non-upgradeable.
To lock in your award or upgrade, you’ll have to make a personal visit to one of Garuda’s worldwide sales offices for some paperwork. You’ll find them scattered across Australia – with CBD locations in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
That’s far less convenient than redeeming miles online or even over the phone, but if you don’t mind zipping down on your lunch break to nab your business class seat, it’s definitely worth the trouble.
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