Indonesia shuts down AirAsia’s Surabaya-Singapore flights

INDONESIAN aviation safety is in the spotlight as the investigations into Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 unearthed information leading to the temporary suspension of the carrier’s Surabaya-Singapore service on January 2.

Djoko Murjatmodjo, acting director general of air transportation, Ministry of Transportation, said: “The airline’s permit is to fly is for Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but it turns out AirAsia was flying on Sundays.

“This is a violation of the flight permit, therefore we have temporarily frozen the Surabaya service for investigations.”

The official said the proceedings from here on are isolated and separate from investigations into flight QZ8501, and added that the Ministry would intensify controls on airlines to ensure compliance with aviation regulations, including the pilot briefing by flight dispatcher.

Sunu Widyatmoko, president director of Indonesia AirAsia declined to comment, but outbound passengers are meanwhile switching to different carriers.

Reza Novaldy, director of Tama Putera Wisata Bandung, said: “People will continue to travel but we have seen people shifting from LCCs to Garuda Indonesia on domestic routes, unless the destination is only served by LCCs.”

Likewise, Kencana Tour Jakarta’s president director, Yekti Suradji, said: “There was growing demand from our corporate clients to travel with AirAsia, especially from those with budget cuts. However, looking at the forward bookings, we see this demand in decline as clients start shifting back to Garuda.”

Pauline Suharno, deputy secretary general of The Association of Air Ticketing Companies in Indonesia expected this year to become a turning point for Indonesian aviation. “Aviation safety is in the spotlight, but the new minister of transportation (Ignasius Jonan) has moved quickly to improve and see that (different players) are complying with regulations.”

In a separate blow to Surabaya, the US Embassy in Jakarta issued a travel alert over the weekend against Indonesia’s second-largest city that warned of possible threats against American interests.

Posted on the embassy’s website, the statement read: “The US Embassy has been made aware of a potential threat against US-associated hotels and banks in Surabaya, Indonesia. The US Embassy recommends heightened vigilance and awareness of one’s surroundings when visiting such facilities.”

No further details were provided, but the concerns were likely heightened following attempts by a number of Indonesian citizens to travel to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS.

East Java regional police forces have denied any existence of a threat but are increasing patrols and security measures around US-associated facilities.

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