Angry passengers in Indonesia block departure gate after waiting overnight for late flight

DELI SERDANG (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Angry passengers blockaded a departure gate at Kualanamu International Airport (KNIA) in Deli Serdang, North Sumatra on Tuesday, after being stranded at the airport since Monday.

The enraged passengers vented their emotions, banging on a check-in counter and blockading a departure gate, demanding that airlines take responsibility for Citilink flight cancellations that forced them to stay overnight at the airport from Monday evening.

One Citilink passenger, Mr Kopter Pangaribuan, said that his plane to Jakarta should have left at 8.20pm on Monday, but had still not taken off at 11pm, causing anger and unrest among the 180 passengers.

"The passengers quickly became angry because they were promised the plane would leave at night but failed to, on the grounds of a technical fault. The flight was delayed until Tuesday," Mr Kopter told The Jakarta Post.

He said Citilink management then appeased the passengers by accommodating them in a hotel and providing each of them with a 300,000 rupiah (S$33) gift voucher.

The airline promised to transport the passengers to Jakarta at 8.30am on Tuesday morning, but attempted to go back on its word, claiming the aircraft was needed for other passengers.

"We protested further by blocking the departure gate. The move succeeded because we eventually departed for Jakarta at 8.30am."

Meanwhile, an AirAsia flight to Palembang, South Sumatra, carrying 170 passengers, was delayed for more than four hours on Tuesday.

With no clear information about the flight, the passengers lashed out at the check-in counter. They calmed down after AirAsia management and security guards invited them to a dialogue.

One AirAsia passenger, who only gave his name as Andre, 25, said that passengers had been advised to stay at a hotel provided by the airline before leaving for Palembang the following day with another airline.

The passengers, however, rejected the offer and demanded to fly on Tuesday.

"We demanded to be flown immediately because each of the passengers had his or her own plans," said Andre. Their demand was eventually accepted by AirAsia, which transferred all passengers to a Sriwijaya flight.

KNIA authority chief Nazaruddin Ahmad said the cancellation of the AirAsia flight to Palembang was due to a flight authorization issue.

"AirAsia has no flight schedule at KNIA today, so we canceled its flights. This is a permit rather than a technical issue," Mr Nazaruddin said in a press conference at the airport on Tuesday.

He added that AirAsia was only permitted to fly from the airport on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays; the airline is not allowed to fly on other days.