KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 29 — Indonesia AirAsia will consider discontinuing the QZ8501 flight code that is still being used despite the disappearance of a plane bearing the designation yesterday. The airline’s chief executive Sunu Widyatmoko said the decision cannot be implemented immediately as it must go through the proper procedures. “We have forwarded our suggestion to the headquarters, but we are still waiting for the approval and coordination from the headquarters,” he was quoted as saying by the Star Online news portal today.
The continued use of the flight code caused confusion this morning when Singapore TV station Channel News Asia put up a Facebook post stating that Indonesia AirAsia Flight QZ8501 “landed safely” today at Changi airport. Facebook users quickly criticised the news outlet for the misleading information, saying it did not make clear that the airline code has not been retired pending the discovery of the missing plane.
Indonesia AirAsia also came in for brickbats for its decision to keep using the flight code even as searchers continue looking for the jetliner. Comparatively, Malaysia Airlines retired the MH370 code after the March 8 disappearance of the Beijing-bound flight and MH17 after the plane was shot down in Ukraine in July. Flight QZ8501, which carried one Malaysian on board, disappeared from radar at 6.18am local time yesterday enroute to Singapore from Surabaya in Indonesia.
On board Flight QZ8501 were 155 Indonesians, three South Koreans, one Malaysian, one Singaporean, one Frenchman and one Briton, comprising 155 passengers and seven crew members. Indonesia resumed search operations for the missing jet early this morning, whose last known position was between the Indonesian port of Tanjung Pandan and the town of Pontianak, in West Kalimantan on Borneo island.