Bali airport reopens after 12-hour closure

The erupting Mount Agung volcano as seen from Datah village in Bali's Karangasem regency yesterday. The volcano, which caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of people when it erupted previously late last year, hurled ash more than 2km into the s
The erupting Mount Agung volcano as seen from Datah village in Bali's Karangasem regency yesterday. The volcano, which caused the evacuation of tens of thousands of people when it erupted previously late last year, hurled ash more than 2km into the sky on Thursday.PHOTO: REUTERS
A sign put up at SIA's counter at Changi Airport's Terminal 2. The airline waived fees for passengers switching to another Asean destination.
A sign put up at SIA's counter at Changi Airport's Terminal 2. The airline waived fees for passengers switching to another Asean destination.ST PHOTO: FABIAN KOH

Nearly 27,000 travellers affected after volcanic eruption forced over 300 flights to be cancelled

Bali's Denpasar International Airport reopened again yesterday afternoon after a volcanic eruption caused a near 12-hour closure and the cancellation of over 300 flights, though travellers were still advised to stay updated on the situation.

Almost 27,000 passengers were affected as 203 domestic and 115 international flights were axed after the airport was shut at 3am following Mount Agung's eruption on the Indonesian resort island.

The airport eventually reopened at 2.30pm after an evaluation showed that volcanic ash had not covered the aerodrome, and it was therefore safe to handle aircraft.

Mr Israwadi, corporate secretary of Indonesia's state-owned airport operator Angkasa Pura, said: "The airport and navigation authority decided that airlines can still fly through alternative routes unaffected by the volcanic ash."

The airport operator advised passengers travelling to and from Bali to check for updates on their flights.

Nine flights between Singapore and Bali were believed to have been cancelled or postponed as a result of the closure. Many travellers were unaware of the problems until they arrived at Changi Airport.

"We came to the airport at 7am for our 9am flight but saw the information on the (travel schedule) board," said German mechanical engineer Wolfgang Mueller, 60. He and his wife, Laura, 55, had been in Singapore for three days and were due to go to Bali for two weeks, flying with Singapore Airlines (SIA).

"If we can't fly, we will head back to Germany and, unfortunately, that would be the end of our holiday," said Mr Mueller.

Mrs Mueller, a pianist, said: "Everything in Bali has been booked and paid for from three months back, so we are quite disappointed."

British tourists, Mr Nick Archer, 55, and his wife Anna, 35, found out their 9am flight was cancelled when they got to the airport at 7am.

"There is uncertainty now because we can only wait for our travel agent back home to inform us about what to do," said Mr Archer.

He said SIA had offered flights to alternative destinations, but he had to wait to hear from his travel agent back in Britain, which is seven hours behind Singapore.

It is believed that both couples managed to catch later flights.

A refreshment table with orange juice and pastries was set up for affected passengers at the SIA check-in desk at Terminal 2. Staff said passengers could change their ticket to another Asean destination, with the fee waived. They would also be offered a free room at Crowne Plaza Hotel if flights had to be cancelled.

Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at local travel agent Dynasty Travel, said it has two groups of customers in Bali who are due to return tomorrow. Another three groups will go there early next month.

"Activities in Bali generally will continue as planned, but customers are advised to avoid going to areas near Mount Agung," she said. Noting that the situation "may change at short notice", Ms Seah said her company would help to rebook, reroute and refund affected travellers.

"Cancellation of tours is not expected. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and update our passengers," she added.

On Thursday, more than 8,000 passengers were affected as Air-Asia, Jetstar, Qantas and Virgin cancelled 48 flights from Bali.

Singaporean tourists were anxious after hearing about the closure. Civil servant Taufiq Kasni, 27, who had been on a diving and surfing trip, said: "Everyone wants to catch their flight out, in case we get stuck if the airport closes again."

Miss Victoria Goh, 24, is due to fly home from a holiday today. She said: "Even though the airport is reopened now, anything can happen, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that it remains open."

Mount Agung, Bali's highest mountain, hurled ash more than 2km into the sky on Thursday. It erupted previously late last year.

Areas spanning 4km from the crater have been categorised as danger zones, and residents living on the mountain's slopes have evacuated independently. More than 300 people have taken refuge in three refugee centres.

Mount Agung last had a major eruption in 1963, killing around 1,600 people. Its activity intensified last year, causing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people and reducing tourist arrivals.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'Bali airport reopens after 12-hour closure'. Print Edition | Subscribe