From left, vlogger Rius Vernandes, Garuda Indonesia president director Ari Askhara and Sekarga chief Tomy Tampati on Friday. (Antara Photo/Aprillio Akbar)

Garuda Makes Peace With Vlogger to End Latest PR Disaster

BY :THRESA SANDRA DESFIKA

JULY 19, 2019

Jakarta. Garuda Indonesia has dropped its defamation charge against a local vlogger who posted a photo on social media of a handwritten menu he was handed in business class. The photo, accompanied by the caption "The menu is still being printed, sir," quickly went viral and caused a major public relations disaster for the flag carrier. 

YouTuber Rius Vernandes first uploaded the photo on Instagram story last week. He followed it with a video on YouTube describing a less than stellar experience on a Garuda business class flight from Sydney to Bali. Apart from offering a menu scribbled on a piece of scrap paper, the flight had also run out of champagne and wine. 

The airline struck back by issuing a ban on taking in-flight photos and videos. Its workers' union, Sekarga, also filed a defamation case against the vlogger. 

Instead of nipping the scandal in the bud, Garuda was soon on the receiving end of a public backlash on social media. Mocking headlines on international media further scarred the airline's already embattled reputation. 

On Friday, Garuda's top management finally stepped in to put an end to the fiasco. 

Its president director Ari Askhara said in a statement on Friday he has asked the employees' union to drop their charge against Rius and meet with the vlogger to bury the hatchet.

"I understand some Garuda employees are offended by Rius' [video], but I also think this could be a moment of reflection for us to remind ourselves to keep improving our services," Ari said. 

"We are sure each party [in this quarrel] has good intentions and love for Garuda Indonesia as the pride of our country," Ari said.

The airline has not been able to catch a break in the past several weeks.

It has already been worried by the government's decision to tinker with its airfare policy that may put the company's finances, which have been in the red in the past two years, under even more pressure. 

Last month, the Financial Services Authority fined the airline hundreds of millions of rupiah for mishandling its 2018 annual report.

Its former executives are also facing corruption investigation by the Corruption Eradication Commission.

Still, Ari said he hoped the airline could spin its latest PR catastrophe into something positive. 

"We want to emphasize that Garuda Indonesia will always regard constructive input and criticism from customers as an important asset of the company to help us continue to optimize services," he said.

 

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