JAKARTA - The Transportation Ministry announced on Friday the suspension or transfer of at least 11 aviation officials at the ministry for their alleged involvement in allowing several airlines to fly without proper permits.
Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan said the disciplinary measure were required to prevent similar reckless actions from occurring in the future.
"This is also part of our effort to improve and supervise all officials at our ministry," he said in a press conference.
The suspended officials, who are all from the ministry's directorate general of air transportation, comprise three officials of echelon II level and seven officials of echelon III level, while one principal operations inspector (POI) has been transferred.
On Wednesday, at least six airport and navigation officials were also suspended due to their alleged involvement in the unauthorized flights.
Jonan said the government also realised that there were a lot of improvements that needed to be made among regulators, state-owned airport operator PT Angkasa Pura, state-run Indonesian Flight Navigation Service (AirNav) and the Indonesia Slot Coordinator (IDSC).
Besides cracking down on its officials, Jonan also announced on Friday that his ministry had frozen 61 flights of five airlines found flying without proper permits during the period of Jan. 5-8.
He did not, however, provide specific details about which scheduled flights or routes had been suspended.
The airlines involved are Garuda Indonesia with four unauthorized flights, Lion Air with 35 flights, Wings Air with 18 flights, TransNusa with one illegal flight and Susi Air with three flights.
The Transportation Ministry's chief spokesman JA Barata said the ministry would allow the carriers to resume flights on the frozen routes as soon as they obtained the required permits.
"We can guarantee that those airlines will be granted flight permits [for the schedules and routes] in a day if complete and submit the required documents," Jonan added.
Responding to the suspension of one of its scheduled flights, TransNusa president director Juvenile Jodjana said that his firm would try to clarify the matter with the ministry.
"We are surprised with the finding. We were audited in Bali and we submitted all required documents. Aviation authorities in Bali also said that we had no problems with our flight schedules," he said.
Juvenile informed The Jakarta Post that his airline had obtained approval for the Denpasar (Bali)-Labuan Bajo (Nusa Tenggara) route for seven days a week.
Voicing similar concerns, Garuda Indonesia corporate communications vice president Pujobroto stated that his firm had not received any detailed information on which flight schedules Garuda had violated.
"All Garuda Indonesia's flights operate after getting approval from regulators," he said.
Before freezing the 61 fights, the Transportation Ministry had previously suspended the Surabaya-Singapore route of AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed in the Karimata Strait between Belitung and Kalimantan on Dec. 28 with 162 people on board.
The A320-200 aircraft flew the Surabaya-Singapore route every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, despite only being approved to fly every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, according to the ministry.
Former Indonesian Air Force chief of staff and aviation observer Chappy Hakim said the ministry's move to suspend flight QZ8501 did not make sense, saying that it was impossible for the airline to fly without prior approval.