KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 8 – The incident sparked fresh questions on social media about the Malaysian airline’s safety record as it struggles in the aftermath of the loss of AirAsia flight QZ8501 in late December with 162 people on board. “One auto-thrust not functioning properly. Actually okay to fly but we just returning it to base,” Fernandes told AFP in a text message, calling it a “minor issue”. He confirmed the plane – operated by the long-haul arm of the AirAsia Group of carriers, AirAsia X – landed safely at Kuala Lumpur International Airport late on Sunday afternoon.
Flight-tracking websites indicated flight D7172 flew several wide circles over the Strait of Malacca to burn off fuel. Fernandes called the manouevre a “routine” precaution as the plane was heavily laden with fuel that normally would have been used up during the several-hour flight to the Saudi Arabian city. “Just burning off fuel, as flight has lots of fuel since it was going to Jeddah,” he said, adding that the plane would be changed and the flight would continue onward.
Although flight QZ8501 was the AirAsia group’s first deadly accident, it followed two other deadly Malaysia Airlines incidents last year that killed over 500 people and raised concerns among many travellers about the safety of the country’s carriers. “What is happening with Malaysia and airplanes? This is really, really scary,” posted one Twitter user. Flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather on December 28 in the Java Sea during what was supposed to be a short trip from the Indonesian city of Surabaya to Singapore. The flight was operated by Indonesia AirAsia, a joint venture which is 49% owned by the Malaysian-based low-cost carrier.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared last March after inexplicably diverting from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing course. The airliner, carrying 239 people, is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean, to the west of Australia, but no trace has been found. MH17 went down last July while flying over rebellion-torn eastern Ukraine on the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur route. It is believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile, resulting in the deaths of all 298 aboard. Malaysia Airlines had previously had a solid safety record, with its only previous deadly accident occuring more than 30 years ago. – AFP, February 8, 2015