Indonesia AirAsia X delays inaugural flight over Australian concerns

JAKARTA/KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Long-haul budget carrier Indonesia AirAsia X has delayed indefinitely the launch of its inaugural flight between Bali and Melbourne after failing to get the approval of Australian regulators, airline and airport officials said on Wednesday.

Approvals were not forthcoming partly due to Australian concerns about Indonesia’s aviation safety record, especially after a plane operated by sister airline Indonesia AirAsia crashed last month, said a source familiar with the situation.

Indonesia AirAsia X, an affiliate of Malaysian long-haul budget airline AirAsia X Bhd, started selling tickets for flights between Denpasar, the capital of Bali, and Melbourne on Oct. 28.

The airline said on Tuesday that an “unforeseen delay in acquiring confirmation from a third party organization” led to the delay.

Indonesia AirAsia X is working with Indonesia’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to complete the “administration process” as soon as possible, a company spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Farid Indra Nugraha, corporate secretary of Indonesian airport operator Angkasa Pura I, told Reuters on Wednesday that “AirAsia X didn’t get approval from the Australian government”.

CASA said it was still in the process of assessing the company’s application for permission to fly out of Melbourne.

“CASA still needs to complete its assessment of safety and regulatory information relevant to that application and cannot make a decision about the matter until we have done so,” it said in an emailed statement. A spokesman declined to comment on any specific safety concerns.

Indonesia’s patchy airline safety record has been in the spotlight after the Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320 crashed into the Java Sea on Dec. 28, killing all 162 people on board.

In 2007 the European Commission banned all Indonesia-based airlines from flying to the European Union after a series of accidents. Exemptions to that ban have since been granted to some carriers, including PT Garuda Indonesia Tbk and Indonesia AirAsia.

However Indonesia AirAsia X, which was set up only last year, is on the EU list.

Indonesia’s transport minister proposed on Tuesday several changes to improve aviation safety standards in the country.