The Garuda Indonesia cabin crew union has publicly welcomed the sacking of the airline’s President over an extraordinary smuggling case in which it was alleged senior executives at the state-owned company tried to illegally import a Harley Davidson motorbike and expensive Brompton folding bicycles during a delivery flight.
Welcoming the decision by the government’s State-Owned Enterprises department to dismiss Ari Askhara, the Ikagi union said his performance had always been controversial and policies he implemented at Garuda had harmed both passengers and employees.
The bizarre smuggling ploy occurred last month when Garuda Indonesia took delivery of its first Airbus A330neo aircraft from the European aircraft manufacturer. Onboard the delivery flight from Airbus headquarters in Toulouse to Jakarta were a number of airline executives including Askhara, as well as other dignitaries.
But down below in the cargo hold was a rather unusual addition to a normal delivery flight – a disassembled Harley-Davidson and several upmarket bicycles. Officials believe Askhara was attempting to use the special flight to smuggle the high-value items into Indonesia without paying the import duties that some have estimated could have been as much as several thousand dollars.
The ploy, however, failed miserably when Customs officers discovered the bikes without proper import papers and opened an investigation. It turns out the bikes had been ordered by someone with the same initials as Askhara and payment had been processed through the account of Garduda’s finance manager.
Zaenal Muttaqin, chairman of the cabin crew union, today welcomed Askhara’s dismissal and made a number of other allegations that have occurred during his short tenure at the airline.
“During his time as Garuda Indonesia’s president director, his performance has always been controversial; thus, it has harmed passengers and employees,” Muttaqin said in comments reported by the Jakarta Post.
Those allegations include:
- Reducing layovers for cabin crew on long-haul flights to just a few hours resulting in extreme fatigue
- Forcing cabin crew to work extra hours
- And grounding crew without “clear or professional” reasons
On top of that, Muttaqin pointed to alleged manipulation of the airline’s 2018 financial report, that resulted in Indonesia’s finance ministry demanding the airline resubmit the report.
Instead of focusing on employee wellbeing, Muttaqin says the airline was more focused on vanity projects like introducing a new uniform and partnering with a luxury luggage manufacturer
“We hope that, after Ari’s dismissal, Garuda Indonesia’s president director and the board will be replaced with figures [characterized by] professionalism, integrity and good attitude,” Muttaqin concluded.