Missing AirAsia flight QZ8501: Airline greys out logos across Twitter and Facebook as social media respond to disappearance of plane

The flight vanished en route to Singapore early on Sunday morning

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The Malaysian airline AirAsia has taken to social media networks to urge members of the public to pray for those on board flight QZ8501, which went missing early on Sunday between Indonesia and Singapore.

Using the hashtag #PrayForQZ8501, the airline confirmed on Twitter that the plane carrying 162 people lost contact with air traffic controllers at 7.24am (11.24pm GMT).

A short while later, AirAsia changed the colour of its logo across various social media accounts to grey, in an apparent mark of respect for those missing.

Tony Fernandes, the airline’s chief executive and owner of the Premier League football club Queens Park Rangers, adopted the greyed-out logo for his own Twitter profile, where he posted a full statement in response to the incident.

“Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers,” he wrote. “We must stay strong.”

Fernandes has been quick to respond to developing crises on Twitter before, and stirred controversy earlier this year by incorrectly posting that Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 – an ongoing aviation mystery – had landed safely.

The wide-bodied Boeing 777 disappeared soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing on 8 March. It and the 239 people on board remain missing to this day.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, also a Boeing 777, was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine while on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on 17 July. A total of 298 people on board were killed.

The Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has also used Twitter to express solidarity with AirAsia over Sunday’s incident.

“Very sad to hear that AirAsia Indonesia QZ8501 is missing,” he said. “My thoughts are with the families. Malaysia stands ready to help.”

For members of the public, the Twitter hashtags #AirAsia and #QZ8501 proved most popular among those discussing the missing jet.

Using both, the actor Harry Cook responded by saying: “I just don’t understand how in this day and age with all our modern technology a plane can just vanish. Horrific.”

AirAsia itself has a very strong track record in terms of safety, and has never lost a plane before.

However, in 2007, an Indonesia-owned Adam Air flight carrying 102 people vanished during a domestic flight. Debris was found a few days later, but much of the fuselage remains on the ocean floor.

In 1995, another Indonesian plane, Merpati Nusantara Airlines, also disappeared over open water while flying between islands in the archipelago nation. The 14 crew and passengers were never found.

In its latest statement, released via its Facebook profile, AirAsia said: “At this time, search and rescue operations are being conducted under the guidance of The Indonesia of Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

“AirAsia Indonesia is cooperating fully and assisting the investigation in every possible way. [We] will release further information as soon as it becomes available.”