Indonesia’s transport ministry has cracked down on the sale of cheap tickets for domestic flights to ensure airlines do not cut corners on safety, authorities said on Thursday, just over a week after an AirAsia Flight QZ8501 went missing and was subsequently found crashed in the Java Sea.
The decision to tighten the rules on bargain fares came into effect on Dec. 30, two days after Flight QZ8501 crashed en route from Indonesia’s second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore. There were no survivors among the 162 people on board.
The transport ministry has raised the ticket price floor for economy class domestic flights, according to ministry documents.
The ministry hopes the new rule will help airlines increase their profit margins so they can spend more on safety.
“We want the aviation sector to be healthy, not cheap. If it’s cheap, there are many things that might not be done,” Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan told reporters on Thursday.
Airlines have to strike a balance between ensuring the safety of passengers and operational costs, Mohammad Alwi, an official at the transport ministry, told a news conference in Jakarta.
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Indonesia has one of the world’s fastest growth rates in commercial aviation, but its safety record is patchy. In 2007 the European Commission banned all Indonesia-based airlines from flying to the European Union following a series of accidents.
Exemptions to that ban have since been granted to some carriers, including Garuda Indonesia and AirAsia.
Since the Indonesia AirAsia crash, the transport ministry has reassigned some officials and tightened rules on pre-flight procedures.
Alwi said the rule change on ticket pricing had “no connection with the accident” and that authorities had taken the decision to raise the floor on price sometime earlier.
The new rule will affect Indonesian airlines such as Lion Air, Indonesia AirAsia and Garuda, but several airline executives contacted by Reuters on Thursday said they were not too worried.
“In fact it means that we will not be attacked by competitors that have predatory pricing. It’s still far from Garuda’s average price,” said Arif Wibowo, Garuda’s chief executive.
The regulation is unlikely to hurt Sriwijaya Air’s sales as the carrier does not sell tickets at bargain prices, Agus Soedjono, senior manager for corporate communication at Sriwijaya Air, said.
“We will follow the regulator’s policy … but don’t assume that cheap tickets mean we don’t pay attention to safety,” Soedjono said.
An Indonesia AirAsia spokeswoman declined to comment.
Under the new rule, airlines will only be able to sell tickets as much as 40 percent cheaper than the ceiling price set by the ministry. Previously, the price floor was 30 percent, although the ministry could grant some exemptions.
Check out AirAsia’s last update:
AirAsia Indonesia Flight QZ8501 UPDATE (as of 7th January 2015 8:00 PM (GMT+7)
SURABAYA, 7 JANUARY 2015: The National Search and Rescue Agency (BASARNAS) Republic of Indonesia today confirmed that the SAR team retrieved a visual confirmation of the tail part of QZ 8501’s aircraft. The visual confirmation was made following underwater documentation of the aircraft’s tail and small wreckage, which showed the plane’s registration number (PK-AXC), captured by the SAR team’s sea divers.
The tail part was found in the additional focus search area (approx. 30 kms from the primary focus area). The SAR operation is still underway as the weather is reported to be clear with good underwater visibility for the divers to continue observation.
Sunu Widyatmoko, Chief Executive Officer AirAsia Indonesia commented, “We would like to extend our appreciation to all authorities and personnel that has been involved in the SAR operation. Today is the eleventh day and the latest finding is indeed an breakthrough for all of us who have been anxiously waiting for further development on the SAR operation.”
Following the latest finding, BASARNAS confirmed that the later SAR operation will be focused in this area to see if there are any trapped remains that must be recovered as well as the continued search for the black box.
Earlier today, Indonesian Navy Commander of the KRI Bung Tomo-357, Lieutenant Colonel Ashari Alamsyah officially handed over the debris and passengers belongings of QZ 8501’s flight that were found in the search area to the Deputy Commander of Indonesian Naval Aviation Unit, Colonel Yuwono at SAR Operation center in Juanda International Airport. As for the next phase, debris will be transferred to Indonesia’s National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) for further investigation.
This morning, BASARNAS also confirmed to have recovered one more remain from the search area. The remain is still in Pangkalan Bun, waiting to be transported to Surabaya for further identification process.
Meanwhile, the Disaster Victim Identification Police Department Republic of Indonesia (DVI POLRI) today announced that they have identified 8 more remains of QZ 8501 passengers as: Ratri Sri Andriani (female),Rudy Soetjipto (male), Jou Christine Yuanita (female), Soetikno Sia (male), Ruth Natalia Made Puspita Sari (female), Nico Giovani (male), Indahju Liangsih (female), Stephanie Yulianto (female). AirAsia Indonesia officially handed over the remains to the respective families at Bhayangkara Hospital, Surabaya this afternoon.
To date, BASARNAS confirmed to have recovered a total of 40 remains of which 24 remains have been identified by DVI POLRI and 16 remains are still being identified.
AirAsia would like to take this opportunity to urge the public seeking progress on the search and evacuation and identification process of QZ 8501 passengers to refer solely to official information from BASARNAS and DVI POLRI.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with the families and friends of our passengers and colleagues on board QZ 8501.