Jakarta, Jan 3: The AirAsia plane that crashed in the Java Sea was flying on an unauthorised schedule, Indonesian Transport Ministry has said and suspended the airline's Surabaya-Singapore route for violating the operational hours.
AirAsia Indonesia is only allowed to ply that route on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. However, AirAsia Indonesia was found to have contravened the permit by using the route on Sunday, December 28, the day flight QZ8501 carrying 162 people on board went missing, the Ministry said.
"As of January 2, 2015, the licence of Surabaya-Singapore (return) route to Indonesia AirAsia is temporarily frozen until after there is a result of evaluation and investigation," Indonesia's Transport Ministry spokesman, Julius Adravida Barata, said. The suspension comes six days after AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed in the Java Sea en route from Indonesia's second-biggest city Surabaya to Singapore. No survivors have been found.
"This is a temporary suspension," said the ministry's public communications head JA Batara in a statement, adding that the ban may be reconsidered upon completion of the investigation. Passengers who have already purchased tickets for the Surabaya-Singapore route have been advised to change their flight schedules.
Meanwhile, Air Asia Indonesia's safety and security director Captain Ahmad Sadikin said on Friday that he was not yet aware of the suspension and reiterated that the airline had never operated a route without a permit. "I cannot answer in detail, since I have not heard about the suspension yet. But if we do not have permission, then definitely we will not fly," The Malaysia Insider quoted Sadikin was quoted as saying.
The authorities were also investigating the possibility that the pilot, Captain Irianto, did not ask for a weather report from the meteorological agency at the time of takeoff. Pilots were required to do so before flying, the paper said. Indonesia AirAsia, however, said in a statement that weather reports were printed in hard copy at the operations control centre at all its flight hubs, including Surabaya, and taken by the pilot to the aircraft before each flight.