Nuts: Garuda Indonesia Customers Have Been Complaining About Crews Wearing Face Masks

Filed Under: Garuda Indonesia

This isn’t quite as scandalous as it sounds, but it does still counter the trend in the industry

Garuda Indonesia flight attendants will stop wearing face masks

Virtually all airlines in the world require flight attendants to wear face masks. That has been the policy at Garuda Indonesia since the airline resumed operations after the pandemic, but that will soon be changing, as reported by Malay Mail.

The reason? Because the airline has received numerous complaints from passengers, who took issue with not being able to see flight attendants’ expressions while being served.

According to Garuda Indonesia’s CEO, Irfan Setiaputra:

“Many of Garuda’s adult passengers have been complaining about our stewardesses wearing masks. The passengers cannot tell if they are smiling or frowning.”

He wants flying to be a pleasurable experience, and doesn’t want passengers to feel like they’re in an ICU:

“We do not want passengers to board the plane feeling unhappy or stressed out, or thinking, ‘oh, is this an ICU?’ when they get on. Everyone wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), covered from head-to-toe, that’s not right.”

Passengers have complained about Garuda Indonesia crews wearing face masks

Flight attendants will likely wear face shields instead

The reason this isn’t as scandalous as it might sound at first is that the airline isn’t completely compromising safety.

The plan is instead for Garuda Indonesia flight attendants to wear face shields in place of face masks. That way there’s still some protection, but passengers can also tell if flight attendants are smiling or frowning.

This also caused me to start researching the relative effectiveness of face masks vs. face shields. This obviously isn’t my area of expertise, though based on my brief online searches (and please correct me if I’m wrong):

  • There aren’t conclusive tests one way or another about whether face shields or face masks are more effective when it comes to preventing the spread of coronavirus
  • Face shields are a good option because of how easily they can be produced and reused, they’re seemingly more effective than many homemade face coverings, and they’re more comfortable
  • For face shields to be most effective they need to extend below the chin, cover the ears, and there should be no gap between the forehead and the shield’s headpiece

We’ve seen some airlines require crews to wear face shields and face masks, though I can’t think of any other airline that just requires flight attendants to wear face shields.

Ironically Garuda Indonesia requires passengers to wear face masks, and face shields aren’t considered an acceptable alternative for passengers.

Garuda Indonesia employees will wear face shields instead

Do people not have better things to complain about?

In fairness, Garuda Indonesia is known for the world-class service of their crews. I guess passengers have higher expectations of getting smiles from crews. On US airlines I almost don’t mind face masks, since I at least don’t have to be reminded that the crews aren’t smiling. 😉

That being said, anyone who is complaining to the airline during a global pandemic about not being able to see flight attendants smile is a complete dingbat, in my opinion.

Is this really what people should be complaining about at this point?!

Bottom line

Garuda Indonesia flight attendants will start wearing face shields rather than face masks due to customer complaints. Apparently customers weren’t happy that they couldn’t see flight attendants smiling, which seems like an outrageous complaint in this era, but…

Anyway, if face shields in fact work as well as face masks then this maybe isn’t a bad long-term alternative in general, given the benefits of face shields. That being said, it doesn’t seem like there’s conclusive evidence there, and for the time being, we’re seeing many airlines requiring flight attendants to wear both face shields and face masks.

What do you make of Garuda Indonesia’s shift from face masks to face shields?

  1. This shows indonesian culture.

    I bet 5$ this is coming from the entitled upper classes. Their society is segregated heavily.

    Complaining that service personnel isn’t smiling fits right in. I mean, why would you care about anyone but yourself?

  2. Good for them! Masks are a joke and don’t help anyone. There is exactly ZERO evidence that masks are beneficial. No one I know owns a mask and NONE of them have caught Corona. HOW DARE THEY FORCE US TO PUT ON MASKS! If you don’t want me coughing on you, just stay home.

  3. That sounded racist, sorry.

    What I am trying to say is that the rich can be quite abusive towards the not so well of.

  4. Honestly, what time of rickety-rackety is this? Is Garuda Indonesia compromising the safety of its crew just for the sake of pleasuring its pax? I agree that they are using face shields, but once again it’s simply more expensive than face masks and gonna stress even more on the airline financially. It’s outrageous jeez. We are deep into a crisis *like never before* (get where I got that slogan from 😉 ) LMAO, what if the crew say ‘I can’t see if the passengers are happy or angry with our service, can we ban face masks for them as well?’

  5. Ohh, Ben. How naïve you are.

    By “customers”, the he means “some friends of mine who are accustomed to seeing smiles from our flight attendants because their wives aren’t as beautiful anymore”. I seriously doubt there has been /that/ many complaints about the crew members wearing masks

  6. My understanding is that masks and face shields perform different functions and are best used in combination, rather than either/or.

  7. @Yreal – I’m glad you corrected above. After all, who are we to judge really.

    @Tom – While I don’t entirely agree that masks have Zero evidence of safety, I can understand the ridiculous acceptable notion that its OK to wear a mask on 10+ hour flight. I can’t breath properly after just an hour of wearing one.
    Hence, I refuse to fly on anything longer than an hour until further notice.

  8. Given this is Garuda, “passengers” presumably means the CEO or executive-level management. Can’t say I’m that shocked, Garuda is a strong contender for world’s most mismanaged major airline…

  9. Ben, do you know that currently face masks are unregulated except medical grade and particulate respirators (N95 and the like). One can literally put fiberglass or any junk material (recycled or purchased cheaply deep in China) into a mask and sell it you on Amazon. We have taken a few masks distributed by an US State entity to the State employees and those were dispersing small fiver dusts upon shaking. Some skin reactions and prolonged cough have been reported after wearing those. Also, wearing a mask over your face for a prolonged time is akin wearing a diaper on the opposite part of your body. Would you put any peace of fabric you picked up from a sidewalk or a floor in a store and cover your mouth if the store is not on fire? If you were some of the masks for a long time or you have a sensitive skin, you better be prepared to treat potential skin rush with remedies from a baby store. This is the known fact – see Mayo Clinic how to protect your face skin if you are a medical worker. Finally, If you adjust your mask with your hands, you also touch your face and this would increase chances of getting your virus on your skin. Till there is a regulation in place and certification of face masks, one could expect consequent class action lawsuits from imposing requirements wearing those masks. From the legal standpoint it is much better to recommend wearing the mask to calm down the public rather than requiring and enforcing. But, as an individual, you are welcome to make your own choices.

  10. “stewardesses”
    It’s 21st century, we still can hear this term from a CEO of an airline.
    Not surprised me, Indonesia is a very chauvinism Muslim country.
    Men and corruption government officials have overwhelmingly control over women, even over female flight attendant’s safety.
    Stay poor. stay under development, Indonesia!!!

  11. For oversimplification

    Face Mask = Protect others from you.
    Face Shield = Protect you from others.

    Didn’t anyone catch this?
    ” our stewardesses wearing masks. ”
    Sexism right up to the CEO.

    So if Indonesians want the mask off to see facial expressions, can we have masks on forever on the US carriers, I really hate those grumpy gulag guard faces.

  12. Indonesia is the most populous Arab country in the world. Women are required to cover from head to toes, depends on how the government interprets and enforces the Quran teaching, to remove temptations/ urge that men have when looking at women. This excuse does not correlate with its teaching.

  13. @Tom
    “Can’t say I’m that shocked, Garuda is a strong contender for world’s most mismanaged major airline…”

    As an Indonesian, I wouldn’t say Garuda is a major airline. Nor is it our national airline. Here, we recognize Singapore Airlines as our national airline.

  14. @globetrotter
    You probably got that from watching one documentary about Aceh, and that isn’t true about the entire country

  15. Creditian – Singapore Airlines also refers to stewards and Stewardesses, as do many other Asian airlines. It’s not a because of chauvinism, religion, corruption, development level or wanting control over women. And most of these Asian airlines are considerably better than their western counterparts.

    Globetrotter – you must have meant Muslim, not Arab. And no, women in many places are not required to cover themselves head to toe. This is clearly evident in places like Jakarta, Bandung, Jogya, Bali and many other places.

  16. This blog has said time and time again that a crew that feels supported by their management, is given the tools to do their job and has a product hard/soft that they feel proud of delivering results in a better overall experience for the customer. If the crew is not comfortable wearing masks and providing service, that will show. The crew should feel comfortable and empowered as opposed to the customers in this aspect. I’m not sure how anyone feels, but I can’t imagine this is what the FAs want.

  17. I call b.s. You could drop an anvil on the foot of a flight attendant a la Bugs Bunny and they still wouldn’t frown. I’m not sure what the real reason is but the potential for frowning ain’t it.

  18. Rich indonesians probably won’t fly garuda unless domestically. Most rich only lived in the big javas cities. The only reason why they would travel domestically is to bali or to jakarta. These cities are served by silk air or SQ. For going abroad most of them would not fly garuda. They don’t fly internationally anymore anyway. They only fly to limited international destinations which is a joke. SIN, KUL, HKG (all in single aisle), sometime to PVG/CAN/PEK, ICN and sometime to NRT. They might fly to Syd once in a while as well. Their 3x/4x weekly to europe is a joke. Compare that to other SEA airlines, SQ, MH, Thai and Vietnam. Indonesia is the largest economy in the region but with the least connectivity around the world. That’s messed up.
    How can they not have flights to TPE, daily flights to more chinese cities and european cities? No connection to the PH or even BKK? Wow. I understand competition from ULCC is tough but that’s why the government owned them.

  19. Why do so many find steward and stewardess sexist? The terms have a maritime background, and unlike the rather unglamorous term flight attendant shows it’s a different job than a parking attendant. To me, steward/stewardess is about class, not sexism.

  20. I agree with Wilhelm.
    Actor = male, actress = female; waiter = male, waitress = female; Mr = male, Ms/Mrs= female.
    It’s not sexist at all, just good English.

  21. Lucky is judging Indonesia by Western values and communication. In Indonesia and elsewhere in S.E. Asia, body language and facial expressions is part of the culture and communication.

  22. While I would never complain about it, I do prefer businesses where staff doesn’t wear masks. Legally they are required to use them in my location, but some restaurants / bars ignore the rule. As correctly pointed out in the article, I don’t wanna feel like I’m in a hospital when I go out for a drink. I came to have a good time, not to live in a fear.

  23. It does not seem so ridiculous that the customers are demanding that given in many countries how naive and sensitive they are, but it does seem ridiculous that they are following through and that the flight crews haven’t fought back. Besides you can tell from someone’s face, eyes, cheeks, etc if they are smiling or not.

  24. I really don’t get how Garuda works in the modern days. Their First class diminished and is confusing (up to the pre-COVID time they only fly CGK-HND and DPS-NRT with F), their long-haul strategy (especially to Europe) is weird, their cabin is inconsistent (how could you expect a non-lie-flat A333 to SYD but lie-flat A333 to Bali/SE Asia?)

    Also, Kudos to Wilhelm! Political correctness is killing our expressions.

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