I walked into the Narita airport, which I always find incredibly impressive. It's always so quiet, efficient, and on time. I have never flown Garuda Air before. On a whim I decided to book a flight to Bali and Garuda was the only airline that offered a direct flight. It was also a nice surprise that Garuda is a part of Sky Team! *side note: I am SO over layovers. Although I know I will still have them, half of the reason why I chose Japan to move to was because there is a direct flight to Portland which is where I am from. I don't like layovers and I will do and pay just about anything to avoid them.
Garuda was the only airline offering direct flights. After doing some price comparison (another side note: I will never fly AirAsia when the motto is "anyone can fly" I know it's not for me. Just like Southwest, no thank you!) I figured the extra $200 was well worth the non-stop status. Little did I know...$200 went a lot further on Garuda.
I checked in, only after having to fish out my itinerary out if my bag. Like a lot of other things, I always print out all my travel documents. More tips on packing here. I got all checked in and gave them my Sky Team number which was a HUGE value added. Then the attendant said, please pay for your Visa on Arrival at the next counter please. Uhhhh, what?! Whattie what? I can pay for my VOA in Japan and in yen? (I had my dad bring over $100 in small bills for this exact trip) so I made my way to the counter, gave them my money, they gave me a piece of paper and away I went.
A couple of hours before our plane landed a customs agent went through and stamped our passports, checked the ID, and issued our visas. We got off the plane and our plane of probably 200 people skipped though the 2 hour line for visas and then we went straight through to customs. Yeah. I was just as amazed as you are right now. It took me a total of 30 minutes between landing, taking the bus to the terminal, going "through" immigration, customs, and finding my driver.
During the 8 hour flight we had excellent food, great service, our own immigration station, and a great movie selection. New releases anyone?
I also took Garuda Air to Lombok. I was not as impressed with the terminal and cattle like feel. But, in some magical way, it works. Even for a 30 minute flight we got a box of snacks and water!
So really, I love Garuda Air. Although it's harder to recommend the domestic flight just because of the cattle like feel (remember AirAsia?). I think the only way to fly to Indonesia is them. Direct, visa on the airplane, and direct to customs. Done and done.