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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anxious time for passengers in detained flight from Timor Leste

Under detention: The HeritageAir plane which was detained for almost six hours at the airport in Surabaya, Indonesia.
PETALING JAYA: It was an anxious wait for passengers aboard a Malaysian chartered plane which was briefly detained by the Indonesian authorities at the airport in Surabaya on Tuesday.
The 86 passengers aboard the BAE 146-200 aircraft had included Malacca Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam, his wife, senior state officials and Malaysian businessmen.
The aircraft was chartered from Heritage Wings by the Malacca state government on a two-day investment trip to Timor Leste.
Star (M) Publications Bhd associate editor M. Veera Pandiyan said the plane had landed at the Djuanda International Airport in Surabaya at around 2.25pm (Indonesian time) after leaving two hours earlier from Dili, Timor Leste.
"We landed in Surabaya for refueling, which were supposed to take about 20 minutes.
"But after that, we got delayed. We were told that this was due to documentation problems. After about an hour, we were told we could proceed to the lounge where we were asked to hand over our passports.
"However, after a few hours, I knew something was wrong. At around 7pm, the officials decided to call Wisma Putra," he said here on Wednesday.
Veera said when he spoke to the captain, who is Filipino, he was told that the ground handling for the aircraft had been handled by another company.
"He told me that although we had permission to land in Surabaya, there was no permission for us to take off. This was supposed to have been sorted out by the company and that in his six years of flying in Indonesia, he has never encountered such problems," he said.
Veera said two officials - Malacca Tourism General Manager Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad and Yayasan Melaka General Manager Datuk Sharabuddin Kudus - kept the passsengers briefed about the developments as they contacted Wisma Putra.
"By 10pm, we were told that we could take off. But it was only around midnight that we finally flew off. We did not know the plane have been detained until we saw barricades around the aircraft as we approached the aircraft in a bus," he said.
The barricades were later removed by soldiers.
Veera said passengers - except one who sustained some injuries when she fell while exiting the aircraft earlier - were treated well by the Indonesian authorities and they were given food by the state officials.
He said the plane landed safely at the Batu Berendam airport in Malacca at around 2.25am in the morning (local time).
Veera said Mohd Ali and his wife, who had left Surabaya on an earlier flight, came to see the passengers when they landed in order to ensure their well-being.
Bernama had quoted the Kompas.com new portal in which Indonesian military spokesman First Admiral Iskandar Sitompul confirmed the detention.
The report said that the aircraft had been given permission to enter Indonesian air space, but the agent for the flight failed to secure landing rights.

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