Instagrammer Threatened With Criminal Charges for Photo of Airline's Ugly Menu

While flying business class on Garuda Indonesia, he was handed a handwritten menu on what looked like a sheet of spiral-bound paper.
July 19, 2019, 7:40pm
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Photo: Getty Images

Earlier this month, the owner of a Los Angeles ice cream truck decided that he'd had it with influencer culture, and was exhausted with (and a little embarrassed for) anyone who'd asked for free soft serve in exchange for a two-second shoutout on their Instagram story. So instead of trading ice cream for that promised 'exposure' that he doesn't need, he printed a sign informing any self-described 'influencer' that they'd be paying double for their orders.

As satisfying as it is to give professional Instagrammers or YouTubers or TikTokers a reminder that they're not as important as their follower counts make them think they are, an Indonesian airline took it too far, threatening to file defamation charges against a travel blogger because he posted its shoddy-looking menu online.

Rius Vernandes' Insta feed is filled with pictures of first-class flights, lie-flat seats, and even a hypebeasty Supreme x Rimowa suitcase. In his bio, he describes himself as "a miles geek trying to master the art of traveling free with miles," but we swear, he's the good guy in this story.

Last weekend, he and his girlfriend flew business class on Garuda Indonesia from Sydney to Denpasar, Indonesia and, as he usually does, he made a video of his experience and shared it on social media. Despite the supposed swankiness of the cabin, he was handed a handwritten menu on what looked like a sheet of spiral-bound paper. He posted a photo of it, with the caption "They told me the menu was still being printed," punctuated with a facepalm emoji.

His menu pic went viral, especially in Indonesia, and Garuda Indonesia didn't like being dragged, at all. The airline quickly announced that the menu was just for the cabin crew and shouldn't have been passed out to customers. According to frequent flyer site One Mile At a Time, it just-as-quickly released a memo suggesting that it would ban all photos, videos, or "[documenting] of activities" during its flights. (After being roundly mocked on the internet—again—it changed its mind and said that selfies and personal pics would be permitted, as long as they weren't "disturbing the comfort or harming other passengers.")

Vernandes posted an explanation on YouTube, and said that he wasn't trying to hurt the airline's reputation; he was reviewing the service as he would during any other flight. On Wednesday, he Instagrammed a photo of two brown envelopes from a local police department, telling him that he and his girlfriend both needed to come in for questioning. Reuters reports that several airline employees had filed a police report, accusing Vernandes of "using a negative perception […] towards the country’s national flag carrier," and potentially violating Indonesia's internet defamation laws.

"I really ask for your support about this. All of it. Anyone. You all have a voice. Especially influencers," he wrote in the photo caption. "I hope you can help share and support me through this problem because I don’t want to see that, in the future, whenever we review something as is, whenever we give constructive criticism, we can be criminalized."

On Friday, The Jakarta Post reported that the Garuda Indonesia Workers Union had dropped the charges against Vernandes. He and his attorney joined the airline's president, Ari Akshara, at a press conference, and said that Garuda Indonesia had offered him two free flights as compensation.

Bro, we're not telling you what to do, but we'd probably say no thanks.