Unread emails helped save lives of 26 passengers who failed to catch missing AirAsia flight to Singapore

Unread emails, missed phone calls, an ailing grandfather – such were the mundane factors that may have saved the lives of passengers who missed catching Flight QZ8501 before it disappeared en route to Singapore.

A passenger manifest showed that 26 people with tickets for the ill-fated flight did not board the AirAsia aircraft, which took off on Sunday from the central Indonesian city of Surabaya.

Former beauty queen Anggi Mahesti was part of a family group of 10 who missed the plane because they were not aware of a change in the departure time.

“It was already the final call when my husband reached the airport in the first car with our bags,” Mahesti, a Miss Indonesia runner-up in 2008, said yesterday in Surabaya. “Most of the family were in another car that arrived 15 minutes later. The plane left without us.”

Her husband Ari Putro Cahyono, who runs a motorcycle dealership, failed to open an email sent by AirAsia on December 15 telling them the flight’s departure had been brought forward by two hours to a 5.35am, and also missed a phone call from the airline earlier this month, Mahesti said. He was negotiating refunds with AirAsia when told the plane was missing.

The group of six adults and four children had been heading to Singapore to celebrate New Year. Cahyono’s brother-in-law Joedhey Ribawantodwi, his wife Christianawati and their three children were joining the trip.

Christianawati, 36, said her family also missed the emails and phone calls. “I was shocked to hear about [the flight’s disappearance]. Maybe it is all God’s plan that my family and I were not on the flight. It was a blessing in disguise,” Christianawati said.

“I hope that the plane is found and everyone is safe.”

Christopher Incha Prasetya, aged 10, cried when his parents cancelled a four-day trip to Singapore because his grandfather was ill.

A day later, he had to be convinced the plane that would have flown them there was missing.

“The kids were still on holidays and Christopher was very upset when we said that we couldn’t go after all,” his mother, Inge Goreti Ferdiningsih, 37, from Surabaya said. “When we told him the plane was missing, he didn’t believe us until we showed him the tickets.”

Ferdiningsih, an accountant, said she and her businessman husband, Chandra Susanto, had paid more than 8 million rupiah (about US$645) for five return fares for their family, which included seven-year-old daughter Nadine and son Felix, five.

They had booked the trip in June and had planned to spend three nights on the Singapore resort island of Sentosa, with the children keen to visit a water theme park. But with her father ill, Ferdiningsih said they decided to call off the holiday the day before the flight.

Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg