Angry Aussies stuck in Bali get relief flights
AUSTRALIANS bound for or stranded in Bali by the latest volcano eruption are being left high and dry - even with travel insurance, except for a lucky few who took out cover with one provider.
The good news last night was the island's international airport reopened at 5.30pm AEST. Some airlines planned to operate as normal.
The bad news was that others left cancellations in place, and it appeared almost no travel insurer was going to cover those caught up in the chaos.
The exception was InsureandGo, which offered a 48-hour window in early June where travellers could buy a policy that covers them for claims from Mt Agung, provided they bought their natural disaster cover as an add-on.
Compare Travel Insurance Director Natalie Ball told News Corp Australia that "every second call" they received yesterday was from travellers with flights to Bali.
But because Mt Agung's volcanic eruption was a "known event", there was no insurer who would be covering out-of-pocket costs.
"There's always a bit of panic in the industry and it's happened a week before school holidays this time," she said.
"It's been erupting since November last year. Most insurers maintain their coverage exclusions for the volcano. But people should be buying travel insurance as it will cover other mishaps and medical costs."
Qantas and Jetstar announced that their scheduled flights to Bali would operate as normal last night subject to any change in conditions.
Customers booked on these services were advised to travel to the airport as usual.
For passengers stranded in Bali, Jetstar advised it was working to operate some relief flights across the weekend.
The airline said it would contact customers directly via email and SMS to advise what flight they were booked on. Jetstar said customers would be selected based on who had been disrupted the longest, and warned it could take several days to be booked on a flight.
For Australians waiting to travel to Bali, Jetstar said customers could reschedule their flights or fly to another destination including Vietnam, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Fiji.
Customers could also opt for the full amount of their booking as a credit voucher.
Qantas advised customers could retain the value of their ticket in credit, or re-book travel to or from Denpasar or fly to an alternate destination.
But those passengers with flights booked with AirAsia and Virgin Australia were out of luck after the two airlines cancelled flights yesterday.
AirAsia announced several Friday evening flights would be postponed until Saturday.
The airline offered customers whose flights were cancelled the option to select a new travel date within 14 days, or obtain a credit or full refund.
Virgin stated that today's services were under review and they would provide updates by 10.30am AEST.
All airlines stated they would contact customers directly via SMS and email while recommending anyone affected check the flight status page of their airline for the latest information.
Those who had booked via travel agents or third parties were told to ensure airlines had their mobile number should they need to contact them if their flight status had changed.
The Bali Government Tourism Office issued a statement saying visitors with an urgent need to continue their travel could take a bus and ferry from Bali to Surabaya - the nearest international airport.
Bali's Governor Made Mangku Pastika apologised for the inconvenience when he visited the airport.
He said that he had also spoken to airline representatives to tell them to coordinate with hotels to give one night's free accommodation for those inconvenienced.
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But Australians stranded at Bali's airport told News Corp Australia they had been forced to sleep on couches while waiting for another flight.
Chicko and Vanessa Xerri said their Virgin flight home had been postponed twice. They had only been given water while waiting in "uncomfortable chairs".
"It'd be great if they had given us vouchers for a meal," Vanessa said.
"It's been a joke, they (the airlines) need to show more hospitality in the situation.
"We are in limbo and nothing is guaranteed."
Sophie Reston and Caitlin Bigg from Byron Bay, who were booked with Jetstar, but told News Corp they were never emailed about their flight being cancelled.
They said they were never given an option for complimentary hotel accommodation either.
"We were just told to sit down and wait (at the airport)," they said.
"Hopefully they'll contact us soon."
Mt Agung's alert level has not been raised and an exclusion zone around the crater remains at four kilometres.
The volcano, about 70 kilometres northeast of Bali's tourist hotspot of Kuta, last had a major eruption in 1963, killing 1,100 people.
It had a dramatic increase in activity last year, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people, but had quietened by early this year. Authorities lowered its alert status from the highest level in February.
Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.