Garuda Indonesia intends to stop cabin crew wearing face masks that help protect them and passengers from COVID-19 because the coverings altered passengers perceptions of crew hospitality according to president director Irfan Setiaputra. The Indonesian flag carrier will look to replace face masks with alternative Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) like face shields which allow passengers to see the entire face.
Face masks have been compulsory for Garuda Indonesia cabin crew since the airline restarted flights on May 7 but Setiaputra says he has received many complaints from passengers who were unhappy about not being able to see the faces of cabin crew.
“Many Garuda customers have complained about the flight attendants wearing masks as (passengers) cannot see whether or not they are smiling or frowning,” the airline boss said during a video discussion on Tuesday.
Clear perspex face shields will likely replace face masks Setiaputra explained without giving a timeframe for when the alternative PPE might be distributed. Pointing to the benefits of the reusable visors, Setiaputra said: “human interaction on the plane can still occur, although minimized, and everyone can feel safe but also comfortable.”
“Two things are important for Garuda right now, safety and comfort,” he said in response to a query from the local newspaper the Jarkata Post. “But the former is prioritized over the latter,” he continued. Other types of PPE were also being considered Setiaputra explained.
Indonesian authorities have mandated that cabin crew wear face masks and gloves unless doing so would prevent them from carrying out safety-related work. It’s not clear whether Garuda Indonesia would need to seek permission for an alternative form of PPE from transport officials.
In the United States, American Airlines expressly banned its flight attendants from wearing face shields citing lack of authorization for the PPE from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). One flight attendant who wore her own face shield on several flights also claimed managers told her they feared the face shields would scare passengers.
Other Corona prevention measures put in place by Garuda Indonesia include requiring cabin crew to check their temperature before reporting for work. Flight capacity is currently capped at 70 per cent.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.