Citlink boss resigns over ‘drunk’ pilot allegations

by Steve Creedy - editor
December 31, 2016

The head of Garuda Indonesia low-cost subsidiary Citilink has tendered his resignation over allegations a pilot on one of the budget carrier’s flights showed up to work under the influence of alcohol.

Citilink chief executive Albert Burhan and the carrier’s operations director tendered their resignations on Friday, although their departure still has to be approved by the parent company.

Garuda chief executive Arif Wibowo told Nikkei Asian Review he believed the resignation request was “an elegant way of taking responsibility’’ for the incident, which has generated international headlines.

"But Citilink is a subsidiary of Garuda Indonesia, a publicly listed company, so the decision will require approval from our shareholders, including the government,’’ he said. “I hope the case will be concluded in the next one-two weeks."

The allegedly drunk pilot was suspended and subsequently fired after passengers claimed he was incoherent during an announcement prior to take-off on the flight from Surabaya, in East Java, to the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

The flight was delayed for an hour and passengers were taken off the aircraft while a new captain was found.  A handful opted not to take the flight.

The pilot reportedly underwent tests at a Surabaya medical clinic and later in Jakarta and  Indonesia media organisations said they expected results next week.

However, the Jakarta Globe reported that the airline said initially there was no indication of substance abuse or intoxication. The online newspaper said Citlink’s stance changed after an airport security video was leaked showing the pilot was unsteady and wobbling as he went through a security checkpoint.

According to the airline's website, Citilink provides more than 230 daily flights to 27 destinations, mostly within Indonesia, using aircraft A320 aircraft.  It has been a success story for Garuda in Indonesia’s competitive low-cost market since it was spun off under its own air operator’s certificate in 2012.

 The Globe said a 2.3 per cent fall in Garuda’s end-of-year share price was likely a result of the controversy.