Emirates, the world's largest operator of wide-body aircraft, cancelled all flights to Bali after ash eruptions from Mount Agung intensified on Monday morning, forcing the closure of the main airport at Denpasar and the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.
Two Emirates services on November 27 have been cancelled and a third has been delayed by nine hours, as volcanic ash rises thousands of feet into the air, stoking fears that a major eruption could be imminent.
“Due to the eruption of Mount Agung, the volcanic ash cloud is forecasted to cover the island of Bali/Denpasar [Airport] (DPS). As such, operations to and from Bali/Denpasar (DPS) have been suspended until further notice,” Emirates said in a statement.
“Flights EK360/EK361 on 27 November are cancelled,” the airline added. “Transit passengers bound for Bali/Denpasar (DPS) who are currently in Dubai International Airport will be given the option to travel to the nearest destination CGK/Jakarta Soekarno–Hatta International Airport, or to their original point of departure if they so choose.
“Flight EK398 from Dubai to Bali/Denpasar (DPS) on 27 November is delayed by approximately 9 hours and is tentatively planned to depart from Dubai at 0600 PM Dubai time.”
Emirates did not disclose the number of passengers affected by the disruption to travel. It added that it was monitoring the situation, and that schedules from November 27 onward could be subject to further change.
“These dates and times are provisional and subject to the operational status of Bali/Denpasar International Airport (DPS),” the statement said.
"Passengers are requested to check the website www.emirates.com for the latest flight timings."
Thick ash started spouting from Bali’s Mount Agung on Saturday, spreading east and forcing the evacuation of thousands of residents living in the island’s northeast area, as well as holidaymakers.
The closure of Ngurah Rai Airport – also known as Denpasar and Indonesia’s third-busiest international airport – has affected 445 flights, including 196 international routes, and stranded more than 50,000 passengers, the airport operator PT Angkasa Pura said on Monday.
Five alternative airports are being prepared for airlines to divert their inbound flights, including in Jakarta, where Emirates is diverting to.
Other international airlines that have cancelled flights include Singapore Airlines, Tiger Air, Malaysian Airlines and Jetstar.
Abu Dhabi’s state-owned carrier Etihad Airways does not fly direct to Bali but is understood to be diverting a small number of passengers with connections to Bali.
Indonesia’s National Agency for Disaster Management issued a Level 4 alert on Monday, advising that anyone within 8 to 10 kilometers from the peak to evacuate.
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation has raised its aviation alert notice to ‘red’, the highest level, warning that a larger eruption is possible.