Indonesia AirAsia Extra is still waiting for regulatory approval to commence flying between Melbourne and Bali more than a month after the first flight was supposed to take off.
The newest affiliate of the AirAsia group of airlines started selling tickets for its inaugural route linking the Victorian capital and the popular Indonesian tourist destination in October, with sale fares as low as A$99 one-way.
However, it began informing passengers via text message on Christmas Day the flights that were due to start on December 26 were cancelled due to the airline not receiving the necessary regulatory approvals in time.
As a result, passengers were routed through Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia AirAsia X, adding hours to their journey to Bali and inconveniencing thousands of passengers.
The AirAsia website has stopped selling direct flights between Melbourne and Bali.
Indonesia AirAsia Extra operated its inaugural flight on January 19, when XT900 took off from Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport bound for Taipei Taoyuan Airport with senior executive Dendy Kurniawan on board. The Airbus A330-300 aircraft then returned to Bali as the reciprocal XT901.
The airline planned to offer once a week service to Taiwan starting January 30, according to the Airline Route website.
The start of regular public transport services from Bali to Taipei confirmed media reports Indonesia AirAsia Extra was yet to receive regulatory approvals from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
CASA said it was currently in the process of assessing Indonesia AirAsia Extra’s application for a foreign aircraft air operator certificate, which would allow it to operate the Melbourne-Bali flights.
“As of yet no decision has been made,” a CASA spokesperson said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
“CASA still needs to complete its assessment of safety and regulatory information relevant to that application and cannot make a decision about the matter until we have done so.”
Indonesia AirAsia Extra is part of the AirAsia X group of airlines.
AirAsia X already has bases in Malaysia and Thailand flying widebody Airbus A330-300 aircraft on routes longer than four hours.
AirAsia X is a separate entity from the short-haul focused AirAsia group, which operates narrow body Airbus A320s from hubs in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and India on routes of less than four hours’ duration.
However, both AirAsia and AirAsia X share the same website and have a common booking system. Moreover, staff wear the same uniforms and the aircraft are painted in a similar livery.
Combined, they carried about 50 million passengers in calendar 2014, according to a research report from CAPA – Centre for Aviation, making it one of only 10 airline groups in the world to handle that many passengers a year.
CASA noted that while Indonesia AirAsia Extra was part of the AirAsia group, it was not the same airline that operated Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501 which crashed into the Java Sea enroute from Surabaya to Singapore on December 28.
An Australian-based spokesperson for Indonesia AirAsia Extra said the airline could provide no new information from a media statement issued on Thursday January 22, which said it was “common practice and permissible in Australia to advertise and sell tickets subject to gaining regulatory approvals on a new route”.
“AirAsia clearly stated in all advertising for this services, that flights were still subject regulatory approval, as per the Australian Air Navigation Regulations,” the statement said.
“AirAsia sincerely regrets any inconvenience caused to our passengers as a result of an unforeseen delay in receiving the final approvals to operate the new direct services.
“We are continuing to work with the relevant authorities to gain the necessary approvals and hope to have this in place as soon as possible.”
The airline said affected passengers were offered full refunds, a credit for future travel or alternate flights to Bali via Kuala Lumpur.