Everyone has to start somewhere, and so it was with Muhammad Arif Wibowo. Armed with motivation, dedication, loyalty and integrity, the Banyumas, Central Java-born mechanical engineer started at the bottom of the career ladder.
As an aspiring engineer at Garuda Indonesia’s Maintenance Facilities Support Center at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport he worked hard, moved up, and eventually exceeded in a number of positions in the national flag carrier’s management team. He has variously held the titles of Garuda’s Senior General Manager West Indonesia; Senior Area GM for Japan, Korea, China and USA; GM for Fukuoka and Tokyo; GM Agency and Interline; and EVP Marketing and Sales Garuda Indonesia. This man surely has the spirit of Garuda coursing through his veins.
In May 2012, Wibowo was appointed to head up Citilink, then a strategic business unit of the airline. When the low-cost carrier took flight in August 2012 as part of Garuda’s “Quantum Leap” agenda, Wibowo became Citilink’s CEO. Under his leadership, Citilink bloomed as the country’s best low-cost airline. The number of aircraft in service doubled, new destinations were added, and a modern fleet of Airbus A320s was introduced.
Needless to say, a string of accolades followed, among them the Leading Low Cost Airline Indonesia award from 2011–2014. So it came as no surprise that on December 12, 2014, this slew of inspiring achievements earned Muhammad Arif Wibowo the esteemed post of President Director and CEO of PT Garuda Indonesia.
During an exclusive interview with Indonesia Tatler at the airline’s Jakarta office suite on Jl. Kebon Sirih, Wibowo elaborates on his vision for the national flag carrier. “I want to stimulate and enhance our sense of pride toward the national airline,” he says. “I’m determined to shape Garuda Indonesia into a healthy corporation and to keep on fortifying its reputation as a global player.
“All that I have achieved,” he adds, “is a product of hard work, love and perseverance, plus, of course, the grace of God Almighty.”
Born on September 19, 1966, Arif Wibowo earned his Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the 10 November Institute of Technology in Surabaya as part of the class of 1986. He then earned his Master’s degree in management of air transportation from the University of Indonesia in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. He is also a Certified Professional Marketer, as awarded by the Asia Marketing Federation.
Maintaining Garuda’s position, progress and development is the CEO’s main vision and passion now. Under his leadership, the flag carrier has already booked a handsome profit after years of loss as it managed to reduce its operating expenses in the face of declining revenue.
“The January-December 2015 records show that we have seen a rebound and booked a net profit of US$ 77.9 million,” says Wibowo with a glint in his eyes. This is, of course, in startling contrast to Garuda’s US$ 368.9 million losses in 2014. The feat was largely due to Wibowo’s “Quick Wins” programme, applied through three main strategies of revenue optimisation, cost restructuring, and re-profiling.
The year 2015 was also full of joy for the flag carrier, which started operations in Burma in early 1948 as a commercial air service with the sole objective of obtain funds for the fledgling Republic of Indonesia. Last year, Garuda reaped 49 national awards, 15 international awards and one national certification.
On February 17, 2016,at the Singapore Airshow, Skytrax, the UK-based consultancy which runs an industry-renowned review and ranking report, listed Garuda Indonesia among its 5-Star Airlines—one of seven in the world—for the second time in two consecutive years. The feat means more than a boost to Garuda’s brand image: it also strengthens Indonesia’s image in the world tourism industry.
Riding the waves of technological innovation, the future of Garuda Indonesia is also one of high-tech touches conveyed in a perfect blend that includes the characteristic Indonesian excellence in hospitality. In the near future, the flag carrier will implement an e-card as well as additional features in its in-flight entertainment service. “Moreover, we want to provide free Wi-Fi on all of our aeroplanes,” adds Wibowo. “Basically, amenities that allow passengers to browse the Internet, use social media and messaging, and send emails.”
Garuda Indonesia will also focus on easing the burden of transactions and interactions by ramping up its digital services to indulge passengers before their flights, in the air, and long after touching down.
“All the steps we undertake represent our deep appreciation for our customers’ trust in Garuda Indonesia; an endorsement of Garuda’s measures as we prepare ourselves to champion the skies domestically, regionally and internationally,” concludes Arif Wibowo.
Read more of Muhammad Arif Wibowo in our June 2016 issue.
Text by Olly G. Santosa, Photography by Heri B. Heryanto