Bali airport reopens, but Australian flights remain grounded

The eruption of Mount Rinjani has caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights
The eruption of Mount Rinjani has caused the cancellation of hundreds of flights

Bali’s Ngurah Rain International Airport reopened on Thursday afternoon, after two days flights cancellations left the holiday plans of thousands of tourists in tatters.

The eruption of Mount Rinjani on the neighbouring island of Lombok caused the cancellation of almost 700 flights between Tuesday and Thursday, but despite initial statement that the airport would remain closed until Friday, the Denpasar hub reopened at approximately 2.30pm yesterday as the wind changed and the ash cloud started drifting away from Bali.

“Taking into account the weather change… Ngurah Rai Airport has resumed operations at 2.30pm local time,” Indonesia’s Antara news agency quoted Trikora Harjo, general manager of airport operator, PT Angkasa Pura I, as saying yesterday.

But while some services are resuming, Australian flights to and from Bali remain grounded on Friday, following advice from the country’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC).

“Based on the latest update from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre our senior pilots and expert operations team have determined the volcanic ash cloud from Mount Rinjani remains unacceptably close to Denpasar Airport,” low-cost carrier Jetstar said in a statement.

Virgin Australia issued a similar statement, and both airlines said they would review the situation on Friday, regarding Saturday’s schedules.

The heads of the Asia Pacific region’s major airlines are due to meet in Bali next week for the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines’ (AAPA) annual Assembly of Presidents. In a statement yesterday, AAPA director-general Andrew Herdman said the association is “closely monitoring the volcanic eruption… and the effects on the operation of Ngurah Rai International Airport”, although he added that the assembly is “still scheduled to proceed”.

**UPDATE**

Jetstar has said it will operate “a very limited number of recovery flights” to Bali on Friday, to start returning customers from Bali to Australia.

“This is the first step to get our passengers moving again. As we have done previously, we will continue to schedule additional services to enable customers to travel to or from Bali when it is safe to do so,” the airline said in a statement issued at midday Singapore time.

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