Thu, 23 May 2024


Volcanic eruption disrupts flights
Published on: Friday, April 19, 2024
By: Sherell Jeffrey, Jimmy Goh, Lisa Aveline Rabenjoro, Jessie Lee
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Volcanic eruption disrupts flights
Passengers stranded at the KKIA.
Kota Kinabalu: Operations at Kota Kinabalu International Airport returned to normal as of Thursday evening, after being disrupted for several hours due to a volcanic eruption in neighbouring Indonesia.

The first to depart was a Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight to Kuala Lumpur, which took off around 6.30pm. AirAsia is also scheduled to follow suit.

Airlines suspended all flights as a precautionary measure after Mount Ruang in North Sulawesi erupted, caused a plume of ash to drift in nearby airspace and posing a threat to aircraft safety.

Earlier, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor said more than 20,000 passengers were affected at the KKIA, Labuan, Tawau and Sandakan airports. 

He said Sabah is monitoring the effects of volcanic eruption closely.

“I have been briefed about the situation and we are keeping tabs. Safety is a priority and it’s important that we prioritise the safety of the people,” he said in the statement.

Many disgruntled passengers were busy making inquiries with the respective airline ground crew. 

One of them, Fauzi Wan Mujid, said his flight to Singapore was originally scheduled to depart at 12.10pm but was rescheduled to 6.05pm, before being cancelled.

MAS Airline Duty Officer Jack said two flights managed to depart at 5.30am and 7am but it was before the volcanic eruption caused disruptions. “The rest had to be cancelled due to the circumstances,” Jack said.

Kota Kinabalu International Airport Senior Manager Jefry Ramli said as of 11.45am, at least 14 arrivals and departures had been cancelled.

Another 10 arrivals and departures had to be rescheduled. Passengers were advised to contact their respective airlines for the latest updates on flight status and rebooking options.

The Usia women stranded at KKIA.

A group of women representing United Sabah Islamic Association (Usia) from Semporna were hoping their study tour of Jakarta would still take place.

“We are supposed to take off at 4.35pm to Jakarta,” said Rashima, one of them. “We have paid for accommodation and transportation fee for the trip.”

Spanish travellers Carola (right) and Irene at KKIA upon finding out their flight to Jakarta had been cancelled.

Spanish backpackers Carola and Irene on a quest to travel around Indonesia for a month were due to embark on the 4.30pm flight to Jakarta.

They were unsure of their next step as the flight boards were not indicating anything yet. 

“We found out at the hostel. We were leaving when a woman told us that every flight was cancelled. I checked my email and saw I had gotten the notice.

“We don’t know what options we have. We have to check when we can fly there, but the board is not showing anything.

So, maybe it will be a long day, but we’re okay. Maybe we’ll go to another place. We don’t really know what to think yet”, she said.

Lyanna, due to head to Penang to represent Teachers Training College at a competition said that her flight first got delayed before being cancelled.

“My flight was supposed to be at 10:35am. Then it was re-timed to 4:20. And then it was cancelled, before being rescheduled to 9.30pm.

“Since the ticket is sponsored by the government I did not receive any notification by email.

“In the meantime I’m going to wait in the airport since KK is very famous for its traffic jams,” she said. 

Ronaldo Ulisi, a Sabahan based in Kuala Lumpur, was planning to return there on the 3pm flight and found out about the cancellation at noon. Like many others, he said he was left in the dark regarding the incoming situation.

“They sent us an email and an SMS to notify the cancellation. For now, I’m planning on waiting a bit more. If there is still no info or update, then I will go back and find a hotel around the area.”

In TAWAU, at least 30 flights scheduled from 7am until 3pm were cancelled.

Airport Manager Rehan Shafiq Azizan said only one flight was made at noon from Tawau to Sandakan.

The flights involved four airliners, namely AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly and Batik Air.

It is understood that there are initiatives to bring affected tourists by van to Kota Kinabalu as an alternative to their destination.

In LABUAN, at least two flights each of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia between Labuan and Kuala Lumpur were cancelled in both directions.

According to an official at Labuan Airport, flights MH2634 and AK5174 from Kuala Lumpur, scheduled to arrive in Labuan at 5.10pm and 4.50pm respectively Thursday were cancelled. 

Similarly, flights AK5175 and MH2535 from Labuan to Kuala Lumpur, set for departure at 5.15pm and 5.55pm, were also affected by the cancellations.

All passengers impacted by the cancellations have been duly notified, the official confirmed.

The disruption has left thousands of passengers stranded, prompting a surge of inquiries at the MAS and AirAsia counters at Labuan Airport.

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