Not Up To It

Garuda Indonesia’s embarrassing computer glitch that has stranded passengers and caused scenes in the past few days is another example of the national airline’s public service mentality and its inability, rhetoric aside, to meet the demands of the market of which it claims to be part.

Computer failures are commonplace. No one is exempt, and certainly not airlines. Yet Garuda, in the time-honoured fashion of Indonesian bureaucracy, has managed to make a dog’s breakfast out of a very small glitch. It wasn’t its reservations system that crashed – there’s a recipe for chaos writ large – but a new computerised administrative arrangement. It controls scheduling aircraft which are to operate and flight and cabin crew rosters.

Flight and cabin crews should know anyway when they are required for work in the immediate future. If they find the computer won’t tell them, they can always ring up and ask. Or someone at the airline could call them. Anyone in a global-standard private enterprise would do so (possibly even in Indonesia). The national carrier is a too-vast and hugely inefficient bureaucracy.

As usual, when trouble struck, Garuda was silent. No one knew anything (no surprise there). Whether this was by corporate instruction or simple ennui and lack of interest in its customers is moot.

But its accountability – in all senses – is of great interest to potential investors in next year’s public float. The past few days give little reason for confidence that Garuda’s all front-no back-up reality is going to change.

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