Bali is tentatively reopening its airport
Bali is tentatively reopening its airport

Bali volcano: Airport reopens as stranded tourists begin to leave island

More than 100,000 travellers are stranded on the holiday island

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 29 November 2017 14:00

A change in wind direction means that scheduled flights to and from Bali will resume imminently, together with rescue missions.

Denpasar airport, in the south of the island, has been closed for three days because of the cloud of volcanic ash from Mount Agung, about 40 miles to the north-east.

On Monday and Tuesday, continuing into Wednesday morning, a south-west wind blew debris from Mount Agung across the whole of Bali.

Volcanic ash can have catastrophic effects on aircraft engines and therefore flight safety.

Now, though, the wind has switched to a south-east direction, and the volcanic ash plume has subsided from 21,000 feet to 8,000 feet according to the latest bulletin.

The problem for airlines — and their passengers — is that even when the all-clear is given, planes and pilots are out of position.

Garuda Indonesia, the national airline, has announced seven domestic flights for Wednesday evening, and says it hopes to run a near-normal service on Thursday. But it has already cancelled links from Bali to Melbourne and Sydney. Other carriers are already gearing up for extra flights to the holiday island.

Singapore Airlines, one of the leading carriers, has scheduled four flights from Bali within the space of four hours from 8pm to midnight, local time, to its hub. It is seeking approval for extra flights, which is expected to be granted shortly. But it still warns travellers with imminent bookings “to defer non-essential travel to Bali”.

Qantas and its budget subsidiary, Jetstar, said: “On Thursday Jetstar and Qantas have 10 scheduled flights and will put on an additional six relief flights, which will see a total of 3,800 people return to Australia.” But it warns: “Volcanic activity and ash cloud are unpredictable and flights may be cancelled at short notice.”

Virgin Australia has cancelled all its Wednesday flights but is trying to arrange rescue services for Thursday and Friday. It warns: “Virgin Australia is advising guests currently in Bali not to travel to Denpasar Airport without a confirmed rebooked flight.”

More than 1,000 flights have been cancelled since Monday morning, with over 100,000 travellers stranded in Bali. Only those booked to fly to Amsterdam on KLM’s normal daily flight are legally entitled to a duty of care from the airline.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin, northern Australia, says Mount Agung is still continuously emitting ash, to a height of 21,000 feet.

The wind direction means that the airport on the neighbouring island of Lombok, to the east, is likely to close; it has been operating intermittently, with some travellers using it as an escape route.

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