Fri, 03 Dec 1999

Airlines' service

It has taken me several days to finally calm down from the frustration I felt with Garuda, Merpati and Selaparang Airport Authority in Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara. I wanted to write a complaint to them, instead I am now more inclined to give advice to the above parties on how to improve if they want to stay in business in the future.

1. Service: There is nothing that can ruin your whole day more than when you have to check-in at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport at 7 a.m. and face unfriendly, unhelpful, smile-lacking and sometimes obnoxious ground crew at the Garuda check in counter. We are paying customers.

2. Profitable business does not mean unethical business practices. This is my experience. On Nov. 26, 1999, I was supposed to take a Merpati flight from Sumbawa to Mataram and connect to Jakarta by Garuda, via Surabaya, hoping to get to Jakarta as fast as possible, for I was carrying with me important perishable material. What happened instead was that the Merpati flight, scheduled to leave Sumbawa at 11:15, came an hour late, and finally landed in Mataram at 13:25. That meant I missed the Garuda flight to Jakarta via Surabaya that left at 13:20.

I went to the Garuda counter to try to get the next flight to Jakarta via Yogyakarta at 4:30 p.m. They did not honor my ticket but insisted on me first paying a 25 percent cancellation fee before I was even considered to be put on the waiting list for the next flight. After all the hustle of paying for and getting a replacement ticket, I finally got a boarding pass at 4:20 p.m.

Fact 1: Merpati had known of the change in the schedule days before but failed to inform potential passengers, it in order not to lose them. This is unethical.

Fact 2: Garuda's ticket from Mataram to Jakarta via Surabaya is about 25 percent more expensive than via Yogyakarta, but if one wants to fly earlier one must pay. This is unethical.

Fact 3: Why should we pay a cancellation fee if it is not us who cancel our departure, and the next flight is only within a few hours. This is unethical.

Fact 4: The airlines refused to acknowledge me as a transit passenger at Selaparang airport. For the first time ever, the airport tax officer forced me to pay the airport tax again or face the security guards. I fly this route regularly, twice a month. I was most surprised when the tax officer told me that to be considered as a transit passenger one must fly using the same ticket or boarding pass or airline -- is this a new regulation resulting from the reform drive? or do the officers need more training?

3. Oct. 1, 1999, we (14 persons) were in transit at Ngurah Rai Airport from Mataram by Merpati and would continue by Garuda to Jakarta. Garuda refused to handle our luggage from Merpati and told us to move our luggage from the arrival terminal and carry it to the departure terminal, which is not near. There was no sight of a sympathetic gesture or a courteous one from the many Garuda officers who were standing around and giggling at each other. For the 11 of us who flew business class, this action was completely unacceptable. So we have all decided, should there be an alternative to Garuda and Merpati, we will all definitely take the alternative.