Bali is a popular tourist destination island in Indonesia. Ben has recognised it as one of his favourite places in the world. It is especially popular with Australian tourists, given its relatively close proximity to Australia, affordability, and abundance of low cost flights.
Bali’s airport in Denpasar (DPS) is located close to Mount Agung, which is a semi-active volcano. Fairly regularly for the last several years, perhaps once or twice a year, the volcano has had some sort of eruption. This produces a thick cloud of ash into the sky over Bali, which causes unsafe flying conditions, and often closes the airport.
You may remember back in 2010 when the Icelandic volcano of Eyjafjallajökull erupted, causing havoc for aviation all across Europe.
Well, once again, the volcano has been sporadically erupting over the past week, with the airport closing at short notice for various periods.
Depending on the flight paths used (remembering flights arrive from all directions into Bali), some airlines have been cancelling flights to and from Bali, even if the airport is open, because they do not believe it is safe to operate.
What to do if you are impacted
This situation changes by the hour, and the eruptions can change without notice. As of the time of writing this article, the airport has reopened, however airlines are warning eruptions may continue.
If you are booked on a flight to Bali over the next week, I would recommend checking with your operating airline to determine if your flight will operate. By far the quickest and easiest way to do this is to visit their website, to check any travel warnings/news they have published and also visit the Manage My Booking section on their website.
If you choose instead to call the airline, expect long wait times as many other people are doing the same.
If your flight is cancelled, the first reaction of most passengers is to contact the airline to ask when you will be rebooked. Unfortunately with the unpredictability of the eruptions, the airline may not know when they will be able to operate flights again, so it is fairly pointless rebooking you before they are confident of the flying conditions.
Otherwise they may need to constantly be rebooking the same people over and over, which causes huge administrative burdens and slows down each airlines’ ability to effectively help their passengers.
Airlines with lots of flights into Bali have traditionally organized additional ‘recovery’ flights once conditions improve, which help clear the backlog of affected passengers. Passengers will usually be automatically rebooked on these flights but they may be rescheduled multiple times if conditions do not improve.
For example, Jetstar, which has a huge presence in Bali, has already scheduled recovery flights (weather permitting of course) to help bring home passengers stuck in Bali who cannot get back to Australia:
If you only have a set time for your travel to Bali and flights do not operate during this time, you may choose to seek a full refund from the airline (and hotel).
For those passengers traveling from Australia to Bali this week, Jetstar is encouraging them to reconsider the dates or destination of their travel, as clearly Jetstar anticipates further eruptions/delays and disruptions.
If your flight is cancelled, it is likely to be at short notice so travel insurance is critical. Some Australian travel insurance policies now exclude volcanic eruptions because Mount Agung has erupted so many times that it is almost predictable that it will happen again.
Check your policy to see if natural disasters such as these are excluded.
If you are already in Bali I would not recommend heading to the airport unless your flight is scheduled to depart as per your airlines’ website. There will be thousands of affected passengers all trying to leave, so you will face chaos, very long crowds and staff that may not be empowered to actually do anything.
If possible, it is best to secure accommodation for that evening, as accommodation may be in short supply if there are additional tourists ‘stuck’ on the island, although remember if tourists cannot arrive, their reserved rooms will remain empty.
Check your travel insurance and the airlines’ website, and wait to be rebooked once the conditions improve. You should be able to obtain a refund, or change your travel dates or potentially change your destination at no cost, but check with your airline as each airline takes a slightly different approach to this situation. If possible, check the Contract of Carriage to determine which written guarantees your airline makes when you purchase the ticket in regards to cancellations, remembering a volcano eruption is an act of God outside of the airline’s control.
If you absolutely need get into, or out of Bali while DPS airport is closed, I understand that the neighboring island of Lombok can be easily reached by boat, and while it has a significantly smaller airport, it is usually not affected by the volcanic eruptions. Expect to pay a big premium on any flights in or out of Lombok as there will be many people trying to do the same.
I won’t be delving into the complexity of EU261 compensation rights, as there are almost no direct flights between Europe and Bali.
Mount Agung has erupted so many times in recent years that it goes hand in hand with traveling to Bali. Every single time it erupts there are the standard mainstream Australian news articles of passengers ‘stranded’ there who decide to sleep at the airport with their young children and often blame their budget airline for the weather conditions.
Stay on top of the situation so this doesn’t happen to you.
It’s impossible to predict how long each eruption will last for, and when it might erupt again. I would put money on Mount Agung erupting again in the next 12 months.
Bali is a beautiful destination but if you are there right now or traveling there in the next week your travel may be disrupted, so just be prepared and best of luck.
Is anyone in Bali right now? What is it like?