Defamation report against travel reviewer dropped by Garuda Indonesia employee union

Photo: Instagram/@rius.vernandes
Photo: Instagram/@rius.vernandes

The much criticized defamation report filed with the police against a travel reviewer by members of Garuda Indonesia’s employee union — centered on a viral photo of a handwritten menu taken while flying in the flag carrier’s business class — has been dropped.

Travel vlogger Rius Vernandes was previously reported to the police for defamation by a Garuda employee union called Sekarga after he posted a photo and a video depicting passengers — including himself — being handed a handwritten menu on a recent business class flight from Sydney to Bali.

In a press conference attended by both parties today, Sekarga said that it has dropped the report against Rius and that the matter has been resolved. The presser also involved Rius and Tomy Tampatty, the head of Sekarga, signing a peace agreement that was witnessed by Garuda chief executive Ari Ashkara and attorneys, including celebrity lawyer Hotman Paris Hutapea. 

“As written [in the peace agreement letter], we from Sekarga declare to all citizens of the Republic of Indonesia, that we have come to peace in this matter. We have officially dropped the report against Bang Rius, and Bang Rius agreed,” Tomy told reporters today, as quoted by Detik.

Tomy also apologized for the media frenzy created by the controversy.

“On this occasion ,we need to convey that Garuda is open to criticism. We apologize and thank you for the attention,” Tomy said, as quoted by Kompas.

Rius thanked his supporters in an Instagram post today, and hinted there might be another Garuda review video coming up.

“The police report has been dropped. Thanks to all of you who have voiced your support in this matter. This is all because of you. Wait for my review of Garuda’s first class, as promised by [the airline],” Rius wrote in the caption.

On Saturday, Rius posted a photo on Instagram of a handwritten menu, written on a piece of scrap paper, that was handed out to business class passengers.

“The menu is still being printed, sir,” Rius wrote in the caption, supposedly quoting his flight attendant’s answer to why there were no printed-out menus.

Hours after posting the photo, Rius told his 90K Instagram followers that he was summoned to the airline’s customer service office at the airport. According to him, a Garuda representative wanted to apologize to the vlogger, who also owns a popular rice bowl chain called Sec Bowl.

Rius has uploaded a video on his Youtube channel that documented how the handwritten menu hullabaloo really went down. Garuda responded by initially flat out denying that the handwritten menu was meant for passengers.

While it hasn’t been confirmed if it was a direct consequence of Rius’ viral photo, Garuda published a circular on Wednesday prohibiting all forms of photographic documentation onboard by passengers and cabin crew. The circular stated that violating the rule may result in unspecified sanctions by the airline. 

However, mere hours after it circulated, Garuda revised the circular, this time to say that the airline is “advising” passengers not to take photos or videos on board for the privacy of other passengers and cabin crew, and that it’s not a total prohibition.

After almost a week of mixed messages from the flag carrier, Garuda finally allowed passengers to take photos and videos on board their flights. In a written statement published on Wednesday, Garuda clarified that personal flight documentation is not against company policy, meaning passengers are free to take out and use their cameras inside the cabin, as long as they mind the comfort and privacy of other passengers.

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