Bali airport re-opens after several flights cancelled over ash cloud

Passengers wait for their delayed flights at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, on July 11, 2015.
Passengers wait for their delayed flights at Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia, on July 11, 2015. PHOTO: EPA

SINGAPORE - At least eight flights between Singapore and Bali were cancelled or delayed on Sunday morning, as ash spewing from Indonesia's erupting Mount Raung forced the closure of Denpasar airport just a day after it reopened.

The Denpasar airport, a gateway to the popular resort island of Bali, re-opened at around 4pm, but dozens of flights had already been cancelled or delayed.

Two Singapore Airlines (SIA) flights have been rescheduled till later on Sunday,  a spokesman from the Changi Airport Group told The Straits Times earlier on Sunday.

The suspension of flights caused fresh travel chaos for weary holidaymakers stranded on the holiday island, Agence France-Press reported.

One Tigerair flight to Bali and one from returning from Bali to Singapore have been rescheduled, the airline said. One Airasia flight from Singapore to Bali was diverted, and one delayed, it said on its Facebook page.

Virgin Australia and Jetstar issued statements on Sunday, cancelling flights operating from Denpasar Airport, while Indonesian flag carrier Garuda confirmed all its flights would be axed until 4pm.

An Air New Zealand flight to Bali had to turn back after it was delayed for almost 12 hours, the NZCity website reported. Another flight on Sunday was cancelled.

Indonesian authorities said the volcanic ash from Mount Raung has begun blowing in an unfavourable direction, the AFP report said.

Mount Raung on the main island of Java has been erupting for weeks, and on Thursday a cloud of drifting ash forced the closure of Bali airport, and four others during peak holiday season.

The airport at Bali reopened on Saturday as the ash drifted away, allowing some passengers to board flights home and others to arrive.

But on Sunday morning, the transport ministry announced wind had once again pushed the cloud over the resort island and that the airport was being closed again until at least 4pm.

"We will continue to monitor developments and decide if the closure will be extended later," transport ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said, AFP reported.

Another airport on Java serving domestic routes was also closed, he said. The other three originally closed on Thursday, including the international airport on popular Lombok island, east of Bali, are now open, AFP reported.

The closure has caused chaotic scenes at Bali's Ngurah Rai airport, with thousands of stranded holidaymakers packing out the terminals, anxiously staring at the departure boards, and sitting and sleeping on the floor, AFP reported.

About 300 flights to and from Bali were cancelled on Friday. Airport officials did not immediately know how many flights would be axed due to the new shutdown.

Indonesian government vulcanologist Gede Suantika said that Mount Raung continued to erupt Sunday, spewing ash up to 1,000m into the air.

"Our observation this morning showed that the winds had pushed the ash in a southeasterly direction towards Bali again," he added.

Australia's Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre said winds were expected to blow the ash cloud away from the airport overnight or on Monday, AFP reported.

Authorities raised the alert status of Mount Raung, a 3,300m volcano, late last month to the second highest level after it began to spew lava and ash high into the air.