Amid mounting flight cancellations and an extended airport closure, Indonesia’s tourism minister Arief Yahya is urging the travel industry in Bali and Lombok to handle stranded travellers with care. And Bali industry players are doing just that.
“It is not their wish to extend their stay (beyond their plan). This is a force majeure that we cannot avoid, so I urge the travel industry to help ease their burden,” Arief said.
The minister is also recommending airlines and hotels to make concessions for travellers stranded in the destination.
“Let the stranded passengers return to the hotels, give them one night free and 50 per cent discount the following night,” he urged.
For airlines, especially LCCs, he recommends for cancellation fees to be waived.
“If the tourist visas are expired, the immigration office should give an automatic extension of one month stay. (Travellers) should be given ease and comfort in processing their visa (extension),” he added.
Such measures are important if tourism stakeholders in the destination want the affected travellers to return, he said.
The regional authority has also provided free land transportations to Mengwi bus station for those who opt leaving Bali on roads to Surabaya or Banyuwangi (on Java Island).
As well, the Bali Tourism Board (BTB) and Badung Regency have spent two billion rupiah (US$154,000) to assist passengers stranded at the airport yesterday with free accommodation for two nights.
Ida Bagus Agung Partha, chairman of Bali Tourism Board, told the media yesterday: “No passenger should sleep at the airport, so BTB and Badung regency are providing the accommodation for them for tonight (November 27) and tomorrow (November 28) night, should the airport still be closed.”
Meanwhile, the closure of Bali’s I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport has been extended by another 24 hours until 06.00 on November 29, according to Angkasa Pura I, the Bali airport authority.
The decision was made following the meteorological watch office released observation by the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre that volcanic ashes were bursting as high as 30,000 feet, moving south-southwest at a speed of five to 10 knots towards the airport.
“Please, do not go to the airport to avoid congestions,” the statement released this morning read.
At least 445 of flights were cancelled and 10 flights were redirected due to the closure of Bali airport yesterday.
Airlines and travel companies are “doing all they can” to help their stranded passengers.
Garuda Indonesia last night announced 49 arriving and 46 departing flights to and from Bali were cancelled today. Similarly 11 flights from and 11 flights to Lombok will also be cancelled, although the airport which was closed for the second time after the eruption yesterday had been reopened this morning.
Henky Heriandono, Garuda vice president corporate secretary, in a press statement said: “Garuda is giving passengers affected by the cancellations choices of rescheduling their flights, extending their ticket validity up to six months since the force majeure, rerouting, changing passenger’s name in the ticket once, or full refund.”
Citilink announced last night it would cancel all its flight to and from Bali and Lombok today and the airline is offering refund and reschedule of booked tickets.
PACTO, which has some 400 passengers from India and 150 passengers from Europe, claimed it had prepared for the situation and are protecting their clients with an extended hotel stay.
“This is low season, so, considering the volume we are used to handling, the situation is manageable,” according to Umberto Cadamuro, its COO inbound.
He said: “As in all force majeure events, the departure schedule will depend on airline planning, so we are not rushing towards other airports but carefully coordinating with the airlines while our guests can comfortably relax in the hotel awaiting further developments.”