SINGAPORE: A flight from Bali to Singapore usually takes two-and-a-half-hours, but for some Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Scoot passengers stranded in the Indonesian resort island, making their way home could come in the form of an 18-hour journey by bus, boat and plane.
This is one option being offered by the airlines, as Bali's Denpasar Airport remained closed for a second day on Tuesday (Nov 28) due to ash from the eruption of the island's Mount Agung volcano.
Indonesia's transportation ministry had said in a statement that "aircraft flight channels are covered with volcanic ash".
In a Facebook update at 12.30pm, Scoot said it has managed to charter coaches to transport its passengers overland from Bali to Surabaya - about 13 hours' drive away - where they can then take Scoot flights back to Singapore.
Including a ferry crossing, the journey will take about 18 hours, said the low-cost carrier.
"Unless otherwise stated, coaches from tomorrow onwards will depart at 10am local time," said the airline, adding that those who want to take up this option should go to Scoot's counters at Denpasar Airport by 9am.
"We seek passengers’ understanding that seats on the coaches are limited and Scoot reserves the right to prioritise passengers with needs."
Scoot added it would stop selling tickets to and from Bali for the travel period up to Dec 4.
On Tuesday evening, SIA posted a similar update on its Facebook page, offering its customers an 18-hour journey from Bali and Surabaya.
"Customers will need to be at Denpasar (Bali) Airport at 0600hrs. Due to limited seats, customers are encouraged to proceed to the airport only if they receive a confirmation email from Singapore Airlines."
SIA had said earlier that passengers can re-route their original Bali-bound flights to other Southeast Asia destinations "within the same cabin class, subject to seat availability".
SINGAPOREANS RETURN HOME
Three Singaporeans who took the long way back over fears of a worsening situation in Bali arrived in Singapore on Tuesday.
Seyjel Danami, Jeanette Chua and Dinesh Kumar, all 18 years old, were part of a group of 13 who were on the resort island for their graduation trip.
On Tuesday the trio were back in Changi Airport after taking a 13-hour bus ride to Surabaya then hopping on a Scoot flight to Singapore.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Seyjel said her parents were watching the developing situation in Bali and had started to make arrangements even before their scheduled Scoot flight was cancelled.
“Scoot hadn’t been cancelled but many other airlines were starting to cancel their flights. So that’s when we knew that the situation may worsen. My parents figured out that either taking an earlier flight or taking an earlier journey to Surabaya would be possible, to take a flight from there.”
She added that while in Bali, they had also been monitoring the situation closely.
“A group of us had registered with MFA, so we were getting regular notifications about the situation there. The area we were in wasn’t directly affected by the ash, but we did want to take precautionary measures so we wouldn’t be stuck there.”
Meanwhile Jeanette – who had not made prior arrangements to leave the island, said she wasted no time in deciding to leave with Seyjel. “For me, it was a decision I made in 10 minutes, when I heard that my friend was planning to get a ride to Surabaya.”
Jeanette and Seyjel shared that Scoot has contacted them with offers for a refund on their tickets, which they said they would be claiming.
The trio said they are still worried about how the rest of their friends, who opted to wait it out. are getting back.
“It's been a pretty crazy experience but it's something that I have learnt from, to be alert and always have a backup plan. And now I just hope that the rest of my friends on this trip get back safely and soon,” Seyjel added.
FLIGHT CANCELLATIONS FOR A THIRD DAY
The closure of Bali's international airport looks set to extend beyond Tuesday, with Scoot and Singapore Airlines announcing flight cancellations on Wednesday (Nov 29) as well, the third day running.
Indonesia's transport ministry had said earlier that the airport closure was due to end at 7am local time on Nov 29.
Local authorities have also been helping to shuttle tourists to Surabaya to catch flights out of the country. The head of Bali's transportation agency said earlier on Tuesday that they were "preparing 10 buses", with the possibility of more vehicles being provided.
Mount Agung began spewing smoke and ash last week but authorities fear a major eruption is imminent. If that happens, flight disruptions in and out of Bali could extend for some time, according to Mr Abbas Ismail, course manager of Temasek Polytechnic's Diploma in Aviation Management and Services.
Amid the uncertainty, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has urged Singaporeans to postpone travel plans to Bali. Those stranded in Bali will receive consular assistance and MFA officers are currently deployed at Bali airport to help those affected.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Neo.