A spring article in an AirAsia in-flight magazine came under renewed scrutiny Monday as authorities continued searching for any sign of missing flight QZ8501. Calling it "shocking" and "tasteless," news outlets recirculated the excerpt, which was published in April after Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 vanished. The article assured AirAsia customers that their planes would "never get lost."
— Malini (@Malini16) December 29, 2014
"Pilot training in AirAsia is continuous and very thorough," the article said. "Rest assured that your captain is well prepared to ensure your plane will never get lost. Have a safe flight!"
AirAsia now finds itself in a similar situation to rival company Malaysia Airlines, as its flight QZ8501 went missing Sunday on its way from Surabaya, Indonesia, to Singapore. The Airbus A320-200 plane had 155 passengers and seven crew members on board, CNN reported. Its pilot had requested a route change to avoid bad weather but was denied because another plane was flying there. QZ8501 then lost contact with air traffic control, and a search of the Indian Ocean ensued. Officials have seen oil slicks and other objects in the sea, the Daily Mail reported, but it's unclear whether they belong to QZ8501.
Reporters and social media users quickly dug up the AirAsia article from earlier this year, which gained notoriety when public outcry forced the Kuala Lumpur-based company to pull the magazine. The story, which was written by a retired pilot, came out weeks after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. People attacked it for being "distasteful" and "disturbing," the Independent reported.
At the time, International Business Times reported that AirAsia Executive Chairman Datuk Kamarudin Meranun issued a statement apologizing for the oversight. "This is a truly difficult time for [Malaysia], and words cannot describe how I personally feel of this incident," he said. "It truly saddens me that this article was released at such an inopportune moment."
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes addressed the controversy in several tweets. “As soon as we were informed on Twitter, we withdrew," he wrote in April. "Once again, apologies. It has been a difficult time for all in the industry.”
QZ8501's disappearance is the third high-profile aviation incident in Southeast Asia this year. MH370 vanished March 8 and remains under investigation. Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed in Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people aboard.