KOTA KINABALU - After a night of chaos at Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA), the scene at the low-cost Terminal 2 was orderly as stranded passengers were put on scheduled flights out of the city.
A passenger, who identified herself as Sarah, said she decided to buy a Malaysia Airlines ticket to Kuala Lumpur after AirAsia put her on a confirmed flight at 7pm yesterday.
"It did not look like they would repair the (runway) lights. I will be delayed again," said Sarah, who was kept inside the aircraft for 90 minutes before the passengers were asked to come out at 8pm on Thursday following the cancellation.
Sarah was among about 4,000 passengers, including many returning home for Aidiladha celebrations, who were left stranded following the sudden closure of KKIA.
Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok was also forced to spend the night in Labuan after his Malaysia Airlines flight from Kuala Lumpur was diverted to the island.
Many passengers were also stranded at the Sandakan and Tawau airports because their flights could not leave for the Sabah capital.
Malaysia Airlines and Maswings managed to send all their stranded passengers by 4pm yesterday before the airport was closed again at nightfall.
For many Universiti Malaysia Sabah students going back for their semester break, it was heart-breaking as they were unable to make it back home for Aidiladha.
Many of them from various parts of Malaysia camped at Terminal 1 and tried to get a flight back home as soon as possible.
Siti Nurul Nor Akmar, 21, who arrived at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Sepang from Kota Kinabalu at 5.30pm, said some of her friends cried when they learnt that their flights were delayed.
"We wanted to be home for the celebrations but I was the only lucky one as my flight on Friday afternoon left as scheduled.
"I was shocked to see KKIA packed with people. Some were impatient and even showed their anger," said Siti Nurul, who hails from Kota Baru.
In SEPANG, many passengers bound for KKIA were left frustrated as their flights were rescheduled.
"I was supposed to fly to KKIA at 7.15pm but was told by an AirAsia counter staff that my flight has been cancelled.
"They have put me on a morning flight but I have nowhere to spend the night," a man in his 50s said at the LCCT yesterday.
A Kuala Lumpur-based sales executive said she had a meeting scheduled for 10am today in Kota Kinabalu.
"They could not promise me a seat on the first morning flight out of here so I am very worried.
"I will have to camp out at the airport for the night to ensure a seat on an early flight or I might consider taking a flight to Labuan and travel to Kota Kinabalu by ferry from there," she said.