AirAsia flight QZ8501: Desperate families flock to Surabaya airport to await news of loved ones

A family member of passengers onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 speaks on her mobile phone as she awaits news of the airplane at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A family member of passengers onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 speaks on her mobile phone as she awaits news of the airplane at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A relative of a passenger from missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 gather at the airport in Surabaya, East Java, on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
A relative of a passenger from missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 gather at the airport in Surabaya, East Java, on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Family members of passengers onboard missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cry at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Family members of passengers onboard missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cry at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Family members of passengers onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 waiting news in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Family members of passengers onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 waiting news in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An Indonesian man, whose wife is a passenger onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, makes a phone call at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014.  -- PHOTO: REUTERS
An Indonesian man, whose wife is a passenger onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501, makes a phone call at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014.  -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A family member of a passenger onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cries as he awaits news of the plane at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
A family member of a passenger onboard the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 cries as he awaits news of the plane at a waiting area in Juanda International Airport, Surabaya on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Family members of passengers from missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 gather at the airport in Surabaya, East Java, on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Family members of passengers from missing Malaysian air carrier AirAsia flight QZ8501 gather at the airport in Surabaya, East Java, on Dec 29, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

SURABAYA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Friends and relatives of passengers onboard an AirAsia flight that went missing en route from Surabaya to Singapore flocked to Juanda International Airport in Surabaya on Sunday, seeking news of their loved ones.

"He arrived home two days ago from accompanying tourists to Malaysia. He was at home for one day, then had to go with other clients to Singapore," said Ms Warih Aditya, 33, referring to her husband Nanang Priyo Widodo, 43, who was among the 155 passengers.

Ms Warih said that Mr Nanang left home at about 3am, riding his motorcycle to get to the airport quicker.

"I was at my mother's home in Malang (East Java), but after being informed that the plane was missing, I went straight to the airport," added Ms Warih, who was accompanied by her six-year-old daughter Agnes Maria.

One family member, identified as Erna W., was quoted by Antara on Sunday as saying that she had four family members on board the missing aircraft.

"I hope I'll be given information soon on the whereabouts of our family members," she said, in tears.

Mr Erna said she had heard about the missing plane from radio and television news reports in Surabaya.

State-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura (AP) Juanda general manager Trikora Harjo said he would keep the families of all passengers informed as to the latest developments regarding the missing plane as soon as they became available.

Mr Trikora said PT Angkasa Pura had booked rooms in the nearby Ibis and Halogen hotels for the families of the passengers to wait in.

"We know that you are tired, so please wait for information while resting at the hotel," he told the families of the passengers.

Surabaya Mayor Tri "Risma" Rismaharini visited the families of the passengers at the airport at about 2pm

"Be patient. Let's pray and hope that the plane will be found soon," Ms Risma urged the distraught families.

She said she had instructed her subordinates to find the addresses of any passengers who were Surabaya residents and keep their families updated.

Meanwhile, Mr Ari Putro Cahyono, a resident of Surabaya, had mixed feelings after he and his nine family members missed the flight after a misunderstanding.

Mr Ari explained that he and his family had arrived at Juanda International Airport at 5.30am as the flight was originally scheduled to depart at 7.20am, but they later found out that the departure time had been changed to 5.20am.

"I did not read the e-mail notifying me of the change in the departure schedule," said Ari.

The operator offered Mr Ari the chance to board the next flight, but he refused after being informed at the airport that air traffic control had lost contact with flight QZ8501 at around 6.30 a.m.

"Me and my family then decided to cancel the trip," he said.

Meanwhile, neighbours of the plane's pilot, Captain Iriyanto, conducted a prayer session for his safety at his house at Pondok Jati housing complex in Sidoarjo, East Java, on Sunday evening.

"We hope Iriyanto and the other passengers are safe and that the plane will be found soon," said Mr Bagianto Joyonegoro, a neighborhood community representative.

Mr Bagianto said Capt Iriyanto's wife Ida had stayed in her room and refused to meet guests after being told of the missing plane.

"Sorry, Bu Ida cannot be disturbed," he said, adding that Capt Iriyanto's children, Ninis and Galis, were on vacation in Yogyakarta.

The acting director general of air transportation at the Transportation Ministry, Djoko Murjatmodjo, said in a press conference on Sunday that the last communication between Capt Iriyanto, and air traffic control occurred at 6.12am local time, when the pilot asked to turn left and climb to 38,000 feet to avoid clouds.

"At 6.16am, QZ8501 was still seen on the flight radar screen. At 6.17 it lost contact and only its flight-plan track appeared," said Mr Djoko.

"The aircraft was in good condition but the weather there was not good," he said.

It is believed that the Airbus A320-200 went missing somewhere over the Java Sea between Tanjung Pandan on Belitung island and Pontianak in West Kalimantan.