Fri, 05 Aug 1994

Garuda service

I am an Irish citizen who has spent the last month on holiday in this most fabulous country. I wish to bring to the attention of your readers an interesting episode which took place at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport on Sunday, July 17, 1994. This story is not so much to complain about the services of a particular international airline company, but rather to alert intending customers of a rather alarming security breach which lays travelers from Indonesia wide open to the horrors of international terrorism.

On Sunday, July 17, 1994 I checked in at the airport for a Garuda International Airlines flight to Amsterdam. My baggage was checked straight through to Dublin Ireland (my final destination) and the disinterested clerk did not question if had I packed the baggage myself or if I had left the baggage unattended for any length of time. While I was assured that I had both packed my own luggage and been with it at all times I was quite concerned that other intending passengers could unknowingly be in breach of this basic international antiterrorism procedure! However my mind did not dwell on this much as I said good-bye to my loved one and made my way to the departure gate.

On reaching the departure gate I was greeted by what could only be described as a gaggle of Garuda ground staff asking me, while grinning and talking amongst themselves, why I was so late to the boarding gate. I replied that I had heard no announcement to inform me of my delay. At this point I was becoming increasingly agitated as I saw that the door of the plane was shut. Interrupting their seemingly humorous discussion, I asked if I could board the plane. My request was responded with shrugs and grins. My mind began to work overtime as I began to realize the increasing gravity of the situation; my monthly stock assessment meeting missed, my colleague waiting for me at the airport in Ireland, the hassle of telephoning and sending faxes at this hour of the evening, the expense of more taxis and another night's accommodation. Then it struck me, I had no rupiah left! I gasped in horror as I watched the plane pull away from the terminal to the chuckles and grins of the Garuda staff. I had race back and try to catch the friends who had driven me from Lampung that evening.

To make a long story short I managed to find my friends, one of whom suggested that we should go to the Garuda office. To my disappointment a Mr. W. Hendro (man in charge) proved no more helpful than the Garuda staff at the boarding gate. In fact Mr. Hendro went out of his way to try to shift the blame to various others including the airport announcement staff and engaged my friends and I in a most tiring two hour argument on the matter. After we finally proved that no announcement was made and got Mr. Hendro to accept the responsibility, he then engaged in a bizarre form of haggling for compensation where I could have either a class upgrade or a night's accommodation at a hotel! At this point it was well after midnight and I was too tired and upset to engage in further debate, so I had to see his supervisor the next day. The end result is I got no more satisfaction. Garuda, after admitting responsibility for my having missed my flight after passing through check in and immigration, refused me a phone call or fax to inform my colleagues, accommodation (even though I had traveled from Lampung that evening) and any form of monetary compensation relating to my expenses as a direct result of their failure to get me on that flight.

However that's just one company's ineptitude and one person's misfortune. What is far more alarming is that a piece of baggage was loaded onto a plane carrying more than 100 passengers, without the check in desk checking if it had been left unattended, without the ground staff knowing the name of the owner, without the person who checked it in on the plane!