Garuda Indonesia wants to place its GA designator tag on Singapore Airlines flights between Singapore's Changi Airport and Los Angeles and New York. An application to the US Department of Transport (DOT) highlights the unlikely alliance between Singapore's powerhouse airline and Indonesia's beleaguered national carrier. The application is also an indication of how Garuda Indonesia plans to take its once impressive long-haul network forward and regain its long-lost foothold in the United States.

Garuda plans to hitch a ride on Singapore Airlines back to the US

In a June 3 filing signed by Singapore Airlines and Garuda Indonesia representatives, Singapore Airlines applied for permission to display Garuda's GA designator code on its flights between Singapore (SIN) and the US. Right now, putting that code on Singapore Airlines' flights to Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK) is top of the agenda, but the application also asks for permission to display the GA code on Singapore Airlines flights to other US airports in the future.

Singapore Airlines is now flying to Los Angeles twice daily and JFK once a day. The 18-hour plus flight to JFK, operated by an Airbus A350-900ULR, ranks as the longest passenger flight in the world. The airline also flies to Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), and Houston (IAH), but those three cities are not explicitly mentioned in the application.

"The Joint Applicants intend to begin codeshare service as soon as possible and respectfully request expedited approval of this Joint Application," the filing reads. "Singapore Airlines requests that the statement of authorization be granted for an indefinite period, consistent with Department precedent, so long as the codeshare agreement continues to be effective."

A350-900 Ultra Long Range Singapore Airlines
The airline is witnessing massive demand from India. Photo: Airbus

Despite having a choppy history with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Indonesian airlines are now allowed to fly into the US. However, none do. Garuda Indonesia holds a US-issued Foreign Air Carrier Permit authorizing it to provide scheduled foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail between Indonesia and Guam (GUM), Honolulu (HNL), and Los Angeles.

But the Indonesian flag carrier is also mired in a torturous restructuring process with no guarantee of a successful outcome. However, if Garuda Indonesia does manage to pull off its third successful restructuring in as many decades, one almost certain outcome is its consolidation into a smaller Asia-focused carrier. Those long-haul routes of yesterday are firmly off the table. Bilateral alliances like this one with Singapore Airlines may be as close as Garuda Indonesia gets to long-haul flying for quite some time. Previously, Garuda Indonesia had flown to Los Angeles via Honolulu, but the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis saw those services axed.

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Garuda Indonesia Singapore Airlines US Flights

A way back to long-haul flying for Garuda Indonesia?

Now, as part of the application filing, Garuda Indonesia wants an exemption to conduct scheduled foreign air transportation of persons, property, and mail from any point or points behind Indonesia, through Singapore, and onto any point or points in the United States so that it may hold out service to the United States pursuant to its codeshare arrangement with Singapore Airlines.

The arrangement, if the US DOT okays it, will allow Garuda Indonesia to sell a GA ticket to someone living in Indonesia, get them to Singapore on Garuda metal, and then transfer them onto Singapore Airlines for the ongoing flight to the US. The same scenario works in reverse. It's not an uncommon arrangement. Airlines worldwide do it - selling tickets bearing their own flight numbers on flights operated by another airline. It's a neat, albeit slightly sleight of hand way to enlarge an airline's network. And this strategy may be how Garuda Indonesia maintains a long-haul network going forward without actually maintaining a long-haul network.

The joint application from Singapore Airlines and Garuda Indonesia remains subject to US DOT approval.