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59,000 Passengers Stranded in Bali as Volcanic Eruption Cancels 445 Flights

Nov. 27, 2017
5 min read
59,000 Passengers Stranded in Bali as Volcanic Eruption Cancels 445 Flights
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Update 11/27/2017 5:44pm: Denpasar Airport (DPS) has extended its closure time to Wednesday, November 29 at 7:00am local time (6:00pm Eastern Time on Tuesday).

Mt. Agung — a volcano 36 miles away from Bali's main airport — erupted last week for the first time since a devastating eruption in 1963 that killed at least 1,100 people. Another eruption this Saturday spewed even more ash into the atmosphere, and now it's causing significant cancellations and delays to air travel in the region.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin Australia reports that "ash is currently observed to a height of 30,000 feet (or 9,144 meters) and a small amount of ash has fallen at Denpasar Airport (DPS) and across Bali's south east." This ash has caused DPS to shut down until at least 7:00am local time on Tuesday, November 28.

However, that closure is likely to continue. Reuters reports that Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika told reporters: "We don’t know how long it will be closed for. Sure, it’s been closed for 24 hours until tomorrow, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility the (closure) could be extended." Indeed, the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre notes that "eruptions and ash falls are likely to continue for at least the next 24 hours."

DPS airport spokesman Air Ahsanurrohim reports that 445 flights have already been canceled, stranding about 59,000 travelers.

Travelers may remember the 2010 Iceland volcanic eruptions that impacted transatlantic flights for over a week. With experts warning that larger Mt. Agung eruptions are likely and Bali airport's proximity to the volcano, it's probable that flights to/from DPS airport may be affected for a while.

Thankfully, stranded tourists are safe — This eruption was predicted with an exclusion zone set-up around the perimeter of the volcano to keep residents and visitors alike out of harms way. Additionally, Indonesian transportation minister Budi Karya Sumadi released a statement saying "if a tourist must overstay due to the eruption of Mount Agung, then immigration must provide assistance related to the extension of their tourist visa."

If you — like TPG himself — are stuck in the area, you've got options. The US Consulate General in Surabaya notes that the airport on the neighboring island of Lombok (IATA code LOP) is still open, and the port in Gilimanuk in West Bali serving ferries to the island of Java remains open. To help those stuck at the airport get to the ferries, the Indonesian authorities are deploying 100 buses to the airport to transfer passengers to ferries, with the ferry operators told to expect a surge of passengers.

Check out TPG's Facebook Live from the airport here:

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Change Fee Waivers

Each airline flying in/out of DPS is operating under its own set of rules, with some allowing free change of destination. If you're able to reroute to another destination, check out this post to see your best options.

Here's a roundup of how some of the airlines are responding:

  • So far, Delta is the only US carrier so far to release a travel waiver for the Bali volcano. Passengers flying to/from/through Depasar Bali, ID (DPS) between November 26-30 can change their flights through December 7. If you want to change your flights beyond December 7, you can do so with no change fee — but a difference in fare will be assessed. Passengers on affected dates can cancel and apply the cost of their trip toward a future reservation.
  • Jetstar cancelled flights until 4:00pm Tuesday. Affected travelers can change their destination, change their dates or cancel their flight can get a credit voucher.
  • Cathay Pacific has issued a weather waiver to waive rebooking and rerouting charges for all tickets issued on or before November 26, 2017, for travel to or from DPS between November 27 and December 4, 2017. Travelers can cancel and get a full refund, even on non-refundable tickets.
  • Singapore Airlines has issued an announcement informing passengers of cancelled flights on Monday and Tuesday. Customers with travel booked between November 27 and December 4, 2017, to or from DPS, can contact their nearest Singapore Airlines ticket office for rebooking. The new travel date must commence on or before January 31, 2018. Cancelled flights are: SQ938/SQ939, SQ942/SQ943, SQ946/SQ947, SQ948/SQ949, MI176/MI175
  • AirAsia cancelled its flights on Sunday afternoon into DPS and Lombok (LOP). Affected customers will be allowed to either change to a new travel time on the same route within 30 calendar days of the original flight time without additional charge, or retain the value of their fare in an AirAsia credit for future travel to be redeemed within the next 90 days. Airline analyst Seth Miller found that the airline's Contract of Carriage "explicitly offers an option for refund," but this option isn't being offered to passengers.
  • Virgin Australia has cancelled its flights through Tuesday. Passengers booked through December 4 can cancel and receive a travel credit, change flights to a different date within 30 days of the original flight or change their flights to Nadi (Fiji) or Port Vila (Vanuatu).
  • Qantas has cancelled flights for Tuesday, November 28. "Options are available" for passengers that have ticketed flights before November 26 for flights from November 25 to December 4.
  • Qatar Airways has issued a travel alert noting "Due to volcanic ash activity, flights to Bali Denpasar Airport (DPS) are subject to delay or cancellation." No free changes are being allowed at this time.

American Airlines and United Airlines haven't yet issued travel waivers.

Featured image by AFP/Getty Images