National flag carrier Garuda Indonesia is planning to replace the face masks worn by its flight attendants with an alternative form of personal protective equipment (PPE) after passengers complained that the masks affected their perception of the cabin crew’s hospitality.
Since the airline resumed domestic flights on May 7, flight attendants have worn face masks and gloves as part of the health protocols put in place to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
However, Garuda president director Irfan Setiaputra said the company received many complaints from passengers saying that they could not see the faces of the cabin crew clearly when they had face masks on.
“Many Garuda customers have complained about the flight attendants wearing masks as [the passengers] cannot see whether or not the [flight attendants] are smiling or frowning,” Irfan said in a virtual discussion on Tuesday, as quoted by kompas.com.
Irfan said that Garuda would gradually issue face shields in place of face masks following the complaints. “With this, human interaction on the plane can still occur, although minimized, and everyone can feel safe but also comfortable.”
When contacted by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, Irfan said that face shields were one of the options being considered by Garuda as an alternative to masks.
“Two things are important for Garuda right now, safety and comfort,” he said. “But the former is prioritized over the latter.”
Garuda corporate secretary Mitra Piranti told the Post on Wednesday that Garuda cabin crew would still wear masks and gloves for the time being, adding that a timeframe for the new policy would be announced later.
“We continually evaluate the appropriateness and safety of the protective equipment for our flight crews in terms of prevailing flight safety regulations, while also looking to provide an excellent service,” Mitra said.
In a circular letter issued on June 8, the Transportation Ministry’s civil aviation director general stipulated that flight attendants were required to wear masks and gloves for personal safety except in cases where wearing such protective equipment would interfere with their safety duties.
Carriers are also required to limit passenger numbers per flight to 70 percent of the respective aircraft capacity, up from the 50 percent capacity stipulated in a previous regulation.