‘Are they smiling or pouting?’: Garuda Indonesia flight attendants to ditch face masks amid passenger complaints

Garuda Indonesia flight attendants. Photo: garuda-indonesia.com
Garuda Indonesia flight attendants. Photo: garuda-indonesia.com

Flag carrier Garuda Indonesia’s flight attendants may have to ditch their face masks after passengers reportedly complained that they can’t see whether they’re being served with a smile or a pout behind the protective equipment.

In a virtual discussion yesterday, Garuda CEO Irfan Setiaputra said face masks minimizes the human interaction experience between passengers and flight attendants.

“Many Garuda passengers complained that flight attendants are wearing masks because the passengers can’t see if the attendants are smiling or pouting,” Irfan said.

“So, gradually, our [flight attendants] will wear [only] face shields.”

Under current Garuda regulations, as publicized in the airline’s social media channels, flight attendants are required to wear face shields, face masks, and gloves while on duty.

Other major Indonesian airlines operating amid the pandemic, such as AirAsia Indonesia, have made face masks for flight attendants mandatory among other health precautions.

Irfan has previously spoken out against full personal protective equipment (PPE) for flight attendants, a policy that some airlines around the world have adopted. When speaking on the subject last month, Irfan said, “All those PPE make [flight attendants] look like astronauts. I ask, is that a hospital or an airplane?”

Garuda’s plan to remove the face masks requirement was not well received by the public, who accused the airline of prioritizing the desire of a certain group of passengers over its own flight attendants’ well being.

The Garuda passengers who complained about flight attendants wearing PPE are definitely men.


Objectification and exploitation?


Garuda is an airline that takes immense pride in its flight service. The flag carrier won Skytrax’s best cabin crew award for five consecutive years before relinquishing the title to Singapore Airlines last year.

Related — Indonesian gov’t allows airlines to hike up ticket prices to compensate for passenger limit


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