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Politics

CEO Fernandes rejects Indonesia's 'unauthorized flight' claim

KUALA LUMPUR -- The CEO of budget airline AirAsia on Wednesday dismissed claims that Flight 8501, which crashed Dec. 28, killing 162 passengers and crew, was not authorized to fly.

     "We had flown that schedule and had rights for seven days a week," Tony Fernandes said.

     Indonesian transport officials have said previously the Surabaya to Singapore flight, which went down in the Java Sea, took off without permission. The Transportation Ministry claimed AirAsia Indonesia had clearance to fly on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays only. Flight 8501 took off on a Sunday. The route has been suspended since Jan. 2 pending a full investigation.

     AirAsia's shares dropped on news of the suspension, falling to a low of 2.48 ringgit Tuesday but rebounded to 2.53 ringgit as of noon Wednesday.

     Fernandes said AirAsia Indonesia, an affiliate of Malaysia-based AirAsia, had rights to fly the route seven days a week. "What happened was purely an administrative error," he said.

     He also welcomed a probe by Indonesian authorities over the alleged violation, especially communications between the airline's flight coordinators and airports, to avoid further confusion.

     Searchers have so far retrieved 39 bodies from the wreckage of the plane, which is lying on the sea floor off the southwest coast of Kalimantan, Borneo. 

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