Bali set to re-open airport as golfers to gangster stranded

Passengers spent their time at a waiting room as all flights were cancelled at the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali, on Nov 4, 2015.
Passengers spent their time at a waiting room as all flights were cancelled at the Ngurah Rai airport in Bali, on Nov 4, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (BLOOMBERG) – Bali’s airport is set to re-open after a two-day closure due to ash from a volcanic eruption that has  stranded professional golfers, an Indian gangster and the South Asian nation’s vice president.

Indonesia’s transport ministry allowed Ngurah Rai airport to resume operations on Thursday afternoon (Nov 5), with authorities waiting for aviation notices to be sent out, Ida Bagus Ketut Juliadnyana, a spokesman for the airport’s operator Angkasa Pura I, said by phone on Thursday. 

Earlier in the day the airport was due to stay closed until Friday.

Virgin Australia said it scrapped all Bali flights for Friday, while Jetstar Asia has also stopped routes from Australia. Flag carrier PT Garuda Indonesia declared force majeure, halting all flights to and from Bali, Lombok and Banyuwangi in eastern Java. 

The closure is due to ash from Lombok’s Mount Rinjani and follows flight cancellations to Bali in July and August during an eruption by Mount Raung on Java. It is another setback for Indonesia’s efforts to attract 10 million visitors this year to help the economy.

“The impact will be significant to the central government’s target,” Ngurah Wijaya, chairman of the Bali Tourism Board, said by phone. “When Mount Raung erupted we lost 30 per cent from Australian market.” 

Day Off 

The last eruption by Rinjani, which dominates the island of Lombok and is popular with hikers, was in 2010. Indonesia is lined with active volcanoes and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Bali, known for its beaches, culture and nightlife, accounts for about 40 per cent of foreign tourist arrivals to Indonesia.

Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari was stranded on the island when his flight was cancelled on Wednesday, and he was unable to depart on Thursday morning, the Press Trust of India reported. 

Others stuck include Indian gangster Rajendra Nikalje, known as Chhota Rajan and due for extradition to his home country, and female golfers who played in a tournament in Bali this week.

“Life is full of surprises, good and bad ones,” said Spanish golfer Beatriz Recari in a tweet on Thursday. “I’m stuck in the beautiful island of Bali,” she said, adding she wouldn’t make a tournament in Japan that starts on Friday.