Jetstar and Virgin Australia have launched an airlift to rescue thousands of travellers stranded in Bali by a volcano ash plume. How long before the rescue flights clear the backlog? The answer is blowing in the wind.
Both Jetstar and Virgin are using bigger planes to boost capacity and get everyone home as soon as possible. Hundreds of Australians are expected to arrive back from Denpasar today, with Virgin expecting to move about 2000 people on the route today and Jetstar hoping to fly all its customers home over the next few days.
The flights, however, are entirely dependent on winds, the airlines warn.
Jetstar plans to operate 18 flights in and out of Bali today, including 10 additional services,”if flying conditions remain safe”. Jetstar chief executive David Hall said getting everyone home might take two or three days, or “it may take longer depending on the weather conditions”.
Winds blow the volcanic ash around, and adverse winds mean too much ash in the flightpath, which will stop the planned flights. Both airlines pointed out that the flight program could be halted at any time.
Virgin Australia told customers yesterday: “Please note that Mt Raung continues to erupt and we have been advised that winds are forecast to blow in an unfavourable direction over the next few days, so it is likely that operations could be disrupted again.”
It advised customers currently in Bali not to travel to Denpasar Airport without a confirmed rebooked flight.
Virgin Australia said that the latest advice from its team of meteorologists and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) was that conditions in the vicinity of Denpasar Airport appeared to have improved throughout yesterday.
To ensure the safety of operating in the area, Virgin Australia sent an observation flight to Denpasar yesterday afternoon “so that pilots have visual confirmation of the improved conditions.
The pilots reported back favourably and extra Virgin flights have been scheduled for today.
Virgin added that guests whose flights have been cancelled as a result of the volcanic activity would be able to change their booking to another date or alternative destination within 30 days without fee or receive a full travel credit by contacting the airline’s Guest Contact Centre on 13 67 89 (from Australia), 00 1803 061 2002 (from Indonesia) or +61 7 3295 2296 from other international locations.
Guests due to travel to or from Denpasar are encouraged to check the status of their flight on the Virgin Australia website.
For latest updates from Virgin Austraia, click here: http://www.virginaustralia.com/ws/en/bookings/flight-status/travel-alerts/
Jetstar said it had determined it was safe to resume services in and out of Bali, “following careful consideration of the latest information from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC).
“In addition to the services announced earlier, we’ll operate six flights to Bali and six flights to Australia tonight,” Jetstar said yesterday afternoon.
“This brings the total number of services we are operating to and from Bali since we resumed flying today to 19.
“Along with the flights that departed earlier today, Jetstar will bring more than 2000 customers back to Australia by tomorrow with this resumption of services.”
Jetstar said it would operate extra services in and out of Bali today (Tuesday) and Wednesday in addition to its scheduled services.
“We’ll publish details of additional flights and invite customers to book seats once available.
“The ash cloud’s movement is highly unpredictable, and we’ll continue to closely monitor the situation with the VAAC. We may need to cancel further flights if conditions prevent safe operations.”
Jetstar said customers holding a valid ticket for travel to or from Bali (Denpasar) from 8 July to 16 July 2015 whose flights were affected by volcanic ash in Indonesia should contact Jetstar within 14 days of your original flight date to:
- Rebook travel on an alternative flight between the same destinations on your original booking departing within 14 days of the intended travel date free of charge.
- Rebook travel on an alternative flight between the same destinations on your original booking departing after 14 days of the intended travel date and we will waive the change fee and the customer will pay the fare difference.
- Rebook travel on alternative flights between different destinations than on your original booking departing within 14 days of the intended travel date and we will waive the change fee and the customer will pay the fare difference.
- Request a refund in Jetstar travel vouchers to the value of the fare purchased on the original affected flight. Travel vouchers can be used within six months to book future travel.
“We realise some customers are concerned about being re-booked on flights set to depart in several weeks time,” the airline said. “Jetstar fully expects to get passengers out of Bali a lot sooner than this once services resume.”
For latest updates from Jetstar, click here: http://www.jetstar.com/au/en/travel-alerts#Volcanic%20ash%20update%20-%20Bali
Written by Peter Needham