Garuda Indonesia Fires Pilots That Were Arrested For Drug Use

A Garuda Indonesia pilot got the chop last week following his arrest in a drug raid in Jakarta. The pilot, who also flew for Garuda’s low-cost offshoot, Citilink, was picked up by South Jakarta Police on July 6. Following that unfortunate incident, Garuda has moved swiftly to terminate the pilot’s employment.

Garuda Indonesia has fired a pilot after he was arrested in a drug raid earlier this month. Photo: Getty Images

Garuda Indonesia president director Irfan Setiaputra told The Jakarta Post on Saturday;

“Based on our investigation and coordination with the police regarding a pilot working for Garuda Indonesia and Citilink who was involved in drug abuse, the company has decided to sever all professional ties with the pilot.” 

More than one pilot arrested

The unnamed pilot was one of four people arrested in the drug raid. Irfan Setiaputra said the pilot has found to have a history of drug use. The decision to terminate him was also designed to send an example to the airline’s other employees. Mr Setiaputra added Garuda Indonesia had a zero tolerance to drug use and abuse.

But a little digging reveals there is more to this story than the Jakarta Post report reveals.

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A report in Indonesian news outlet Tempo reports more than one pilot was arrested in the raid. Tempo reports South Jakarta Police Narcotics Unit picked up three pilots in the raid. Two of the pilots worked for Garuda, the other worked for a private airline. The fourth gentleman arrested was the dealer.

Two of the three pilots arrested worked for Garuda Indonesia. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

“They’re arrested on Monday, July 6, at around 6 p.m. in Cipondoh, Tangerang,” said Chief of South Jakarta Police’s narcotics unit, Commissioner Vivick Tjangkung.

Commissioner Vivick Tjangkung said the pilots were found consuming crystal meth.

Garuda’s Irfan Setiaputra told Tempo investigations surrounding the incident remained active. However, he said the airline would begin zeroing in drug use and abuse. It has since required more than 120 crew and airport workers at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to pony up with urine samples. It is unknown whether these were targeted or random tests.

Ongoing issues regarding drug use amongst Indonesia’s pilots

There have been concerns about, and stories about, drug use amongst Indonesian pilots for years. The Indonesian Pilot Federation flagged the issue nearly ten years ago.

”Pilots make big money. The more they fly the more money they earn. The bigger the money the more expensive your lifestyle will be. Methamphetamine is not cheap, you know,’‘ said Federation advisor Manotar Napitupulu.

Mr Napitupulu, who worked for Garuda Indonesia Airlines, called for random drug and alcohol testing back then. As the commercial aviation sector in Indonesia boomed, concerns have been raised that safety and security protocols have not kept pace.

Some argue that safety and security regulations in Indonesia have not kept up with the booming aviation sector. Photo: Sebung Hamster via Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, Indonesia’s National Narcotics Agency Chief, Budi Waseso, attributed drug abuse among pilots as a contributor to Indonesia’s high accident rate. He said a 2013 Lion Air crash was due to the pilot hallucinating, mistaking the sea as the runway. However, Mr Waseso does not have the hard evidence to back up this claim.

It does, however, add to concerns about the regulation of flying in Indonesia. The aviation sector in Indonesia and its airlines have long been plagued by scandal and corruption. The apparent continuing use of crystal meth among pilots is another problem for Garuda Indonesia. Despite intentions, as this month’s arrests indicate, Indonesia still has some way to go stamping out drug use and abuse among its pilots.