Riza Roidila Mufti, Jakarta – The Garuda Indonesia Cabin Crew Union (Ikagi) has thanked State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) Minister Erick Thohir for dismissing Ari Askhara as the national flag carrier's president director following a smuggling case allegedly involving top executives of the airline.
"We kindly appreciate SOE Minister Erick Thohir's decision to sack Ari Askhara from his position, and we also support Pak Erick's quick response to the Harley-Davidson smuggling case," Ikagi chairman Zaenal Muttaqin said at a press conference in Jakarta on Friday.
"During his time as Garuda Indonesia's president director, his performance has always been controversial; thus, it has harmed passengers and employees," he added.
Erick said on Thursday he would dismiss Ari following the discovery of a smuggled disassembled Harley-Davidson motorcycle and upmarket bicycles aboard a new Airbus A330-900 being delivered from France. He cited an audit committee's findings that the classic motorcycle had been ordered by someone identified as AA, the same initials as Ari Askhara.
Zaenal claimed this was not the first controversial action by his former boss. The others included alleged manipulation of the 2018 financial report, decisions to ground employees without clear and professional reasons, forcing cabin crew to work extra hours without proper resting time and changing flight routes in a way that increased working hours for the crews.
Ari had also formed a new cabin crew union to stand against the existing union, said Zaenal.
"On long-haul flights, for example, we do not stay overnight but are only given several hours for transit," said Zaenal, adding that the policy led to extreme fatigue.
"Thus, we are thankful for Pak Erick for dismissing him, but this is not final yet. We ask the government, in this case, the SOE minister, to investigate this case, including all board of directors' members," said Zaenal.
This year, Garuda has been embroiled in several headline-making incidents. In June, the Finance Ministry ordered Garuda to restate its 2018 financial report after an investigation by the ministry and the Financial Services Authority (OJK) found that the airline's financial report did not comply with accounting standards.
In July, the airline was attacked on social media for reporting YouTube personality Rius Vernandes and his girlfriend Elwiyana Monica to Soekarno-Hatta Airport Police for alleged defamation under the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.
Rius had posted on his Instagram account a photo of a handwritten menu written on a piece of paper given to him while he was on a Garuda business class flight to Denpasar, Bali, on July 13.
The case caused a stir on social media, and a few days later, on July 19, the Garuda Indonesia Workers Union (Sekarga) revoked the police report it had filed against Rius and Elwiyana.
Zaenal added that too many unnecessary gimmicks had been created by Garuda during Ari's leadership, such as live music on flights, a redesigning of cabin crew uniforms and changing their travel luggage to a well-known brand, while the airline had failed to address employee prosperity.
"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," said Zaenal.