Mum, daughter endure gruelling trip back to S'pore

Ms Rukzana Hamid and her daughter Nur Humairah in Surabaya airport. PHOTO: COURTESY OF RUZANA HAMID

After waiting close to 19 hours at Surabaya's Juanda International Airport, a Singaporean mother-daughter pair finally boarded a 21/2-hour Scoot flight for Singapore, at 7pm Indonesian time.

Ms Rukzana Hamid, 36, and her 15-year-old daughter Nur Humairah had been caught up in the chaos that followed the eruption of Bali's Mount Agung.

They were on the island for a holiday to help the teenager unwind before her O levels next year.

But the temporary closure of Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport, 60km from the volcano, meant they had to make a gruelling 15-hour journey from the island to Surabaya to try to get a flight back to Singapore. They had to contend with traffic jams caused by flooding, as well as a 101/2-hour car ride with no toilet breaks and no sleep for Ms Rukzana.

The pair had been on holiday since Nov 24 and were initially scheduled to return to Singapore on Wednesday on a Scoot flight. But the Bali airport was closed on Monday and Tuesday, and reopened only on Wednesday.

Ms Rukzana: "Scoot told us it was clearing the backlog of passengers from Monday and Tuesday, and could not put us on a flight from Bali to Singapore any time soon."

On Wednesday, Ms Rukzana and her daughter left their hotel in Bali and made their way to the Ngurah Rai international airport. They were told their Scoot flight had been cancelled and they would be placed on a flight from the Surabaya airport on the island of Java instead.

Ms Rukzana arranged for her own transport there since she had heard that some coaches headed for Surabaya that were arranged by the airlines had broken down in the jungle. "It's very dangerous for two females to get stuck in the middle of a jungle," she said, adding this was an option many took.

The trip began with a four-hour car ride to the Gilimanuk ferry terminal. What followed was a one-hour ferry ride and then non-stop 101/2-hour travelling by car to Surabaya on a bumpy road. The entire car ride cost her $300.

Ms Rukzana and her daughter arrived at the Surabaya airport in the early hours yesterday. She said: "I have not slept or showered. It was just the two of us on the road. I wanted to keep watch and make sure the driver didn't go off route."

There was some chaos at Juanda International Airport, but most Singaporeans have been helping one another.

Ms Rukzana said: "We are tired and frustrated but we are trying to do the right thing. There is a consensus among us to keep things calm. We have exchanged numbers with each other to keep each other updated on the flight situation when we go for toilet or coffee breaks."

Scoot said that due to overwhelming demand, some of its passengers could not be accommodated on a return flight yesterday morning. The airline said it had arranged for an additional flight from Surabaya to Singapore in the afternoon.

Mount Agung has been spitting ash into the air and blocking flight paths. Some experts have warned that this could go on for weeks before a major eruption takes place. As a result, some Singaporeans said they will be forgoing their holidays in Bali.

Lawyer Jagjit Singh Gill, 45, who had booked a family holiday to Bali for the middle of this month, said: "We have to wait and see. We are worried that we might get stranded." He added that airlines should continue to allow those who have booked flights to Bali to fly elsewhere instead.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2017, with the headline Mum, daughter endure gruelling trip back to S'pore. Subscribe