Scandal-Ridden Garuda Appoints New Leadership Team

 - January 22, 2020, 4:56 PM

Garuda Indonesia on Wednesday named a new CEO and enacted several other leadership changes as it addresses a series of scandals that rocked its previous management.

During an extraordinary shareholder meeting, the airline appointed Irfan Setiaputra chief executive officer, replacing I Gusti Ngurah Askhara “Ari” Danadiputra, who lost his job in December along with four directors for allegedly smuggling a disassembled Harley-Davidson motorcycle on a newly delivered Airbus A330neo. A relative newcomer to aviation, Setiaputra graduated from Indonesia’s Bandung Institute of Technology and previously served as CEO and president director at various telecommunications companies, including Sigfox Indonesia in 2019 and PT Industri Telekomunikasi Indonesia (INTI) from 2009 to 2012. Setiaputra steps in as Garuda’s fourth CEO since Emirsyah Sata resigned in 2014.

Shareholders of Indonesia’s flag carrier also increased the number of managing directors from four to six during Wednesday’s meeting. Dony Oskaria, who previously served as a member of Garuda's board of commissioners and the National Industrial Economics Committee became the company’s new vice president director. Oskaria was one of two commissioners who refused to sign off last year on Garuda’s 2018 financial statement and annual report due to a series of accounting irregularities. Triawan Munaf, a former head of Indonesia’s Creative Economy Agency, takes over as the airline’s new president commissioner, while interim CEO Fuad Rizal continues in his role as the company’s finance director. 

Garuda’s corporate shuffle comes amid a number of past and current scandals, including allegations of price-fixing, unfair business competition practices, and sexual harassment of cabin crew. The company has also experienced a spate of recent problems with local carrier Sriwijaya Air, which moved to sever its relationship last November after accusing Garuda of imposing unfair stipulations over payments for airport services and maintenance.

Garuda, through its subsidiary Citilink, gained operational and financial control of Sriwijaya in 2018 in an attempt to return the airline to profitability. According to Indonesian media outlets, Sriwijaya and its subsidiary, Nam Air, has entered talks with several foreign and local investors; plans call for Sriwijaya’s fleet to increase to 23 aircraft and Nam’s fleet to 14 by March.

Meanwhile, Garuda faces allegations of sexual harassment of cabin crew following the firing of its former chief executive, better known as Ari Askhara. In mid-December, a series of Twitter posts from an anonymous user went viral, accusing several officials, including Askhara, of widespread discrimination and treating cabin crew as “prostitutes.” An investigation into these allegations continues.