Missing AirAsia plane: Indonesia's search so far

Indonesian army officials, and search and rescue team officers hold a press conference on search efforts for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya.
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Indonesian army officials, and search and rescue team officers hold a press conference on search efforts for missing AirAsia flight QZ8501 at Juanda International Airport, Surabaya.

With Malaysia still facing criticism for its handling of the MH370 disappearance, the world is now wondering how Indonesia will fare with its own search operation.

Steve Wilford, Asia-Pacific director for global risk analysis at Control Risks, told CNBC that based on the updates revealed so far, he has faith in Indonesian officials to perform an efficient search.

One day following Sunday's disappearance of AirAsia flight QZ8501 from Surabaya, Indonesia's National Search and Rescue Agency told reporters at a press conference that the plane was likely at the bottom of the Java Sea. Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan also said on Monday that the government will be reviewing AirAsia's Indonesia operations to ensure a high level of safety at its operations.

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"Indonesia is a disaster-prone place, so they have learned quite a lot from crisis situations ever since the 2004 tsunami," Wilford said. The speed at which they got Malaysia, Australia and Singapore involved also speaks to their competence, he added, especially since Singapore is known for their organizational prowess while Australia has proved to be a key player in the search for MH370.

Indonesia vs Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and former Transportation Minister Hishammuddin Hussein came under heavy fire following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March, specifically for providing false leads of the plane's whereabouts and being secretive about new information. However, Indonesia appears to be avoiding those early mistakes, experts said.

"The whole style of the Indonesian administration is more ... transparent," Wilford said. "[Indonesian President Widodo] Jokowi seems understanding of public expectations. He's been inclusive operationally and good at providing information in the way that Malaysians weren't at that early stage."

The missing plane is expected to be a key test of leadership for President Jokowi, who is still in his first few months in office. Jokowi, has remained largely absent from the public eye thus far, opting to send Vice President Jusuf Kalla to meet with families of the AirAsia passengers Monday in Surabaya. In contrast, Prime Minister Razak was quick to make his presence known in the early days of MH370.

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"You can't compare what Malaysia has done and what Indonesia is going to do," said Subhranshu Sekhar Das, head of aerospace, defense & security practice, Asia-Pacific, at Frost and Sullivan. It's all about how the airlines will perform and manage the situation, not so much the country's leadership, he added.