Passengers on Lion Air flight from Singapore almost skipped immigration checks in Jakarta

A Lion Air plane taking off from the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, on May 18, 2010.
A Lion Air plane taking off from the Soekarno-Hatta airport in Jakarta, on May 18, 2010. PHOTO: ST FILE

JAKARTA (Jakarta Post/Asia News Network) - Mishap-prone Indonesian airline Lion Air is in the spotlight again after passengers arriving in Jakarta on a flight from Singapore were taken to the airport’s domestic terminal, almost enabling them to skip immigration checks.

The case emerged after a member of the public, Ms Zara Zettira, wrote about the incident on her Facebook page after learning of the incident at Soekarno-Hatta airport from an acquaintance's daughter who was on the May 10 flight.

Ms Zettira quoted her friend as saying: "My daughter Natalie left Singapore at 6:50 pm on Lion Air flight JT-161 and arrived at Jakarta at 7:35 pm. Instead of landing at Terminal 2 as international flights are supposed to, the plane landed at Terminal 1, the domestic one.

“Lion Air’s ground crew didn’t direct my daughter and the foreign passengers for immigration checks, which is standard procedure for international flights. Is it normal for passengers of international flights to land at the domestic terminal without passing through immigration? If it is, then wouldn't it have an effect on national security?” 

State-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura II spokesperson Agus Haryadi acknowledged that there was a procedural error in the handling of the flight.

There was miscommunication between the airlines’ ground handling staff and the shuttle bus driver, and the immigration office is investigating, he said.

“Aviation security officers who spotted the mistake promptly directed the passengers to the correct terminal, redirecting the shuttle bus to Terminal 2 for passengers to pass through immigration," he said in a media statement.

Immigration office spokesman Heru Santoso put the blame on Lion Air since airlines are responsible for directing passengers to the correct arrival terminal.

"Under the 2011 Immigration Law, the incident was the mistake of the transportation company and therefore its responsibility," he said via short message as quoted by kompas.com on Saturday.

He explained that the driver of the shuttle bus conveying the passengers from the airplane to the airport terminal had misinterpreted information.

"Lion Air is being questioned about the incident. Some of the passengers were then called back to pass through immigration," Heru said.

The incident happened just a week after a near-crash between two Lion Air planes as they were about to take off from Soekarno-Hatta airport. No one was injured although the planes' wings collided, Agence France-Presse reported.

In 2013 a Lion Air jet piloted by a rookie undershot the runway and crashed into the sea in Bali, splitting the plane in two and injuring several people.