Indonesia to probe Lion Air, Indonesia AirAsia ground handling ops

JAKARTA - Indonesia's transportation ministry on Wednesday said it plans to suspend the in-house ground handling operations of budget carriers Lion Air and Indonesia AirAsia at two of the country's biggest airports while it investigates possible handling errors.

Ministry spokesman Hemi Pamuraharjo at a briefing said the airlines have until Tuesday to hire other handling services before its investigation begins. He said, without elaborating, that the possible errors involved passenger handling.

The suspension will apply to Lion Air at Jakarta's main airport and to AirAsia in the resort island of Bali, he said, declining to disclose the duration of the investigation.

Lion Air is Indonesia's biggest budget carrier, while Indonesia AirAsia is an affiliate of Malaysia's AirAsia Bhd, Asia's biggest low-cost carrier.

Local media reported this week that Lion Air and Indonesia AirAsia allowed passengers on two international flights to disembark at domestic terminals, and that airport security officials had to redirect the passengers for immigration checks.

Flight numbers the ministry identified as involving possible passenger handling errors matched those in the media reports.

Lion Air declined to comment on the reports when contacted by Reuters. In a statement on Wednesday, Director Edward Sirait said the airline would continue to operate normally. "We urge our passengers not to worry about this decision because all of our operations are running normally," he said.

Indonesia AirAsia was not immediately available for comment.

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