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The Airline That Wanted to Stop its Cabin Crew Wearing Face Masks Changes its Mind After Backlash

The Airline That Wanted to Stop its Cabin Crew Wearing Face Masks Changes its Mind After Backlash

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Garuda Indonesia has abandoned plans to stop its cabin crew wearing face masks after the chief executive claimed the airline had received an avalanche of complaints from passengers who were unhappy about not being able to see the flight attendants smile. Irfan Setiaputra had said that cabin crew wearing face masks made the plane look like an Intensive Care Unite (ICU) but the Indonesian flag carrier has since backtracked after a backlash on the proposals.

Since May 7 cabin crew have needed to wear face masks and gloves when serving passengers as part of safety measures introduced by the Indonesian authorities. The face mask requirement was brought in to coincide with the restart of flights following a COVID-19 grounding.

But Setiaputra claimed the masks altered perceptions of crew hospitality amongst passengers. “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.

Instead, Setiaputra proposed replacing face masks with clear face shields so that passengers could see still the facial expressions of cabin crew while also providing protection against COVID-19. “Two things are important for Garuda right now, safety and comfort,” Setiaputra said. “But the former is prioritized over the latter,” he explained.

Now though, Setiaputra has been forced into an embarassing u-turn, telling reporters on Friday that the face shields will only be used to complement the current face masks cabin crew are wearing and won’t in fact replace them as he had initially wanted.

Disposable aprons will also be added to the list of PPE kit cabin crew will be expected to wear in what some might say is another move towards making the aircraft look like an ICU.

“Entering this new normal era, Garuda Indonesia continues to move adaptively to optimize service quality and consistently implement health protocols to maintain trust and rebuild public interest in re-planning trips using air transportation services,” the airline said in a statement explaining the change of policy direction.