The Lion Air flight lost contact with air traffic controllers at 6.33am, shortly after it took off at 6.20am from Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport.
The aircraft was brand new and considered among the most advanced planes in the airline's fleet, as were the first Boeing 737 MAX 8s that were delivered to Lion Air a little more than a year ago.
The Max 8 is part of Boeing Co.'s latest narrow-body 737 series.
Airline Chief executive Edward Sirait earlier told Reuters: "We can not give any comment at this moment".
Relatives of passengers of Lion Air flight that crashed into the sea, cry at Depati Amir airport in Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia, October 29, 2018.
According to his Linkedin account, Suneja had worked for Lion Air since 2011, clocking up some 6,000 flight hours.
The only news that came, though, was of body parts and debris found floating in the water around the crash site. Due to the problems, the USA and the European Union had banned it from operating in their airspace, but both lifted that restriction in 2016.More news: Suspected mail bomber headed to Miami court on Monday
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Indonesia's Transport Ministry said the Boeing 737-800 plane was scheduled to take just over an hour from Indonesia's capital.
Earlier this morning, Lion Air flight JT610 suddenly fell off the radar minutes after taking off.
At least 23 government officials were among the 189 board the plane, which an air navigation spokesman said had sought permission to turn back just before losing contact.
In a statement, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson told news.com.au it was "aware of reports of the missing Lion Air aircraft in Indonesia".
More than 300 people including soldiers, police and fishermen are involved in the grim search, retrieving aircraft debris and personal items such as a crumpled cellphone, ID cards, bags and photos from the seas northeast of Jakarta. "That's something we only see on TV news, now it happened to my son", Nurbana said.
"We are waiting for the miracle from God", said Wiryanto, when asked if there's any hope of survivors.
Lion Air, a low-priced airline, has been involved in a number of incidents.
On Facebook there are photos of him in his Lion Air uniform, smiling.
The European Union barred Indonesian airlines from flying to Europe in 2007 over to safety concerns.