More than 160 students of the Bali Tourism Academy (STP) are involved in efforts to assist tourists affected by the eruption on Mount Agung. (Antara Photo/Wira Suryantala)

Bali Airport Closure Extended to Wednesday as Mt. Agung Continues to Spew Ash

NOVEMBER 28, 2017

Jakarta. Airnav Indonesia, the country's air navigation agency, extended on Tuesday (28/11) airspace closure over I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali for another 24 hours after nearby Mount Agung spewed a column of ash above its slopes overnight.

The airport was initially scheduled to reopen at 07:00 a.m. this morning after first suspending operations on Monday following the volcano's first eruption in over 50 years. Mt. Agung has continued to erupt over the past couple of days.

Under the new schedule, Ngurah Rai Airport will resume operations at 07:00 a.m. on Wednesday at the earliest.

"We and all the stakeholders put utmost importance in flight safety. This decision was taken to ensure that," said Wisnu Darjono, Airnav's operation director.

Since the airport suspended operations on Monday, 196 international flights and 249 domestic flights have been grounded, leaving more than 80,000 passengers stranded. Authorities and local hotels offered free buses, hotel rooms, free visa extension services and food coupons to assuage travelers' burdens.

Ngurah Rai Airport is the only international air gateway to Bali, which accounts for 40 percent of Indonesia's tourism market. The airport is also the main hub to reach destinations in eastern Indonesia, like Labuan Bajo and Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara.

Authorities have yet to announce how many flights will be impacted by the airport closure extension. However, Wisnu said the Ministry of Transportation, the highest authority for transport in the country, approved Airnav's decision.

He added that the wind now blows from north to the south at between 5 to 10 knots, carrying ash from Mt. Agung west to Denpasar, 70 km away from the volcano, where the airport is located.

"Volcanic Ash Advisories indicate that the aircraft's guiding traffic path has been covered with volcanic ash, thus endangering flights," Wisnu said, referring to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centers (VAAC), a global network of meteorologists and volcanologists under the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Abrasive volcanic ash can disrupt blades in jet and turboprop engines and cause complete engine failure.

In 1982, British Airways Flight 9 from London to Melbourne flew 11 kilometers above Jakarta through volcanic ash from Mount Galunggung, about 180 kilometers away from the capital. The airplane lost power in all of its four engines and descended almost 7 kilometers before recovering three engines to make an emergency landing at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport in Jakarta. All 15 crew members and 248 passengers survived.