Many travellers in S'pore making alternative plans

Bali's Denpasar airport reopened yesterday after a three-day closure, but uncertainty over how the erupting Mount Agung would affect flights has prompted many in Singapore to make alternative holiday plans.

Even as the likes of Singapore Airlines, Jetstar and Qantas announced they would resume flights to and from Bali, many would-be passengers told The Straits Times they are taking up offers from the airlines to fly elsewhere. Many airlines also continued to recommend that passengers defer non-essential travel to the island.

Business development executive Kuan Rong Ming, 29, was to spend Dec 5 to 10 in Bali for his honeymoon, but will be going to Hiroshima in Japan instead.

He said: "We weren't sure when the airport would eventually reopen and, since this is our honeymoon and not just any regular holiday, we didn't want to take the risk of not being able to go anywhere."

Similarly, Mr Sharad Varma, 52, and his wife Alpa, 48, both accountants from New York, changed their plans because of the airport closure. Mrs Varma said: "We were supposed to go to Bali from Singapore today, but we were told the airport was closed. No one gave us any information on the airport opening, so we thought it was best to be safe and we booked (a trip to) Bangkok."

The volcano has been spitting ash into the air and blocking flight paths since Monday. Some experts have warned that this could go on for weeks before a major eruption takes place.

Even travellers headed to nearby Lombok island were reconsidering their plans. Said tax manager Lim Yong Yao, 37, who was to visit Lombok with his wife and 19-month-old child from Dec 8 to 16: "We planned a fishing trip there, but the captain of the fishing boat told us not to go there because conditions are bad.

"We don't want to take our young son to a place where volcanic ash is in the air. The Lombok airport has already been closed once and could potentially close again... We don't want to get stranded there."

Still, the resumption of flights brought relief to Bali residents trying to go home or those stranded on the island.

Ms Natalie Neo, 26, who works as an analyst at a bank, was to return to Singapore on Monday via KLM Royal Dutch Airlines after a weekend in Bali with a friend, but their flight was cancelled. She said: "I'm now trying to contact KLM to see if we can be put on an earlier flight."

Bali-based real estate agent Maxime Etti, 54, was anxious to get back to his family. "I should have been in Bali three days ago. I have two children there... and I am very afraid," he said. "I have images of Pompeii in my mind because they have told me the ash is everywhere."

•Additional reporting by Shelina Assomull

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'Many travellers in S'pore making alternative plans'. Print Edition | Subscribe