Garuda scraps inflight photo ban amid online uproar

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian flag carrier Garuda withdrew a proposal to stop passengers taking photos in cabins on Wednesday after being mocked over a plan that was introduced after a travel blogger posted unflattering photos on a flight.

FILE PHOTO: Garuda Indonesia planes are seen on the tarmac of Terminal 3 at Soekarno Hatta International Airport near Jakarta, Indonesia April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Darren Whiteside

Rius Vernandes, who has more than 100,000 followers on Instagram, on Saturday posted photos and videos showing him holding a handwritten menu on note paper that he described as the business class menu on his Garuda flight from Sydney.

Garuda said on Twitter the menu was not for passengers but had been meant as a notice for flight attendants.

On Tuesday, a directive from the airline instructing cabin crew to stop passengers taking photos and videos mid-air was leaked on social media.

The issue has inflamed passions in a country that is one of Instagram’s biggest markets worldwide and where posting travel “selfies” is hugely popular.

Garuda in a statement on Wednesday said the directive had been an internal document that had now been revised to make clear it was just appealing to passengers to respect the privacy of other passengers and flight crew on duty when taking photos.

“This appeal is also based on reports, suggestions and input from customers/passengers who feel uncomfortable and disturbed by the shooting and documentation of activities without prior permission,” Garuda spokesman Ikhsan Rosan said, adding it was also intended to ensure its flights complied with rules and regulations.

Rosan told Reuters that there was no link between the intended directive and the blog post by Vernandes.

Vernandes did not respond to a request for comment but told his Instagram followers he had received an apology from the airline over the service on the flight.

But in a later post he said both he and his fiance had been reported to police for alleged defamation over the post.

The head of Garuda’s labor union, Tomy Tampatty, told Tempo news website that several airline employees had filed a police report accusing the bloggers of “causing a negative perception...towards the country’s national flag carrier”.

Garuda’s Rosan said the company itself had not filed a report, only “union employees”.

Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport chief, Victor Togi Tambunan, said Vernandes and his fiancée had been reported to police over claims they had broken Indonesia’s broad internet defamation laws though they had not been made suspects.

The policies of airlines around the world over taking photos in the cabin appear to vary depending on the carrier.

Reporting by Fanny Potkin and Agustinus Beo Da Costa. Editing by Ed Davies