Bali airport closures during APEC Summit

BALI - During the upcoming APEC Summit, Oct. 1-10, Ngurah Rai International Airport will operate with scheduled closures to commercial flights to regulate possible heavy air traffic during the ten-day event.

The airport's management will likely apply tight schedules on the days that state leaders and APEC delegates arrive and depart, thus canceling or postponing numerous commercial flights.

Taufik Hidayat, general manager of Garuda Indonesia in Denpasar, confirmed over the weekend that the airline had already received plans to reschedule commercial flights.

"We have known about the plan for quite a long time, but confirmation from the airport just arrived on Friday, Aug 30."

According to the announcement, the airport will be temporarily closed for several hours on three days - Oct 6, Oct 8 and Oct 9.

On Oct 6, the airport will be closed for all commercial flights from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

On Oct 7, the airport will operate normally.

Then on Oct 8, the airport will be closed again to commercial flights from 1 pm through 8 pm While on Oct 9, the airport will close to commercial flights from 7 am through 2 pm.

The policy has forced airlines, including Garuda Indonesia, to cancel or reschedule flights to and from Bali during that period.

"Garuda Indonesia is still arranging new schedules to adjust to the plan. At least eight flights will be cancelled, 11 flights will be rescheduled. We are still thinking about cancelling or rescheduling 29 other flights," the general manager elaborated.

"If we talk about business calculations, such planned cancelations will lead to financial loss, but this is for more important national interest," Hidayat explained.

For Garuda Indonesia and many other airlines, Bali had always been a prolific market, he said.

From May to August, Garuda Indonesia's load factor reached around 80 per cent. The company used large-body aircraft with a seat capacity of more than 300 for every flight.

"The company is now working to reduce the possible loss and complaints from clients and agencies by spreading this information as fast as possible to related parties," he said.

For those agencies and passengers who had already booked tickets for the affected period, refunds would be offered, he stated.

Ketut Ardana, chairman of the Association of Indonesian Tour and Travel Agencies (ASITA), complained that ASITA had not received any official announcement from the airport's management.

"ASITA had only received informal information on the airport closures for APEC from the Tourism and Creative Economy Ministry. But the schedule for the airport closures and openings were different," Ardana said.

"Official and accurate information on the planned schedules is badly needed. We [ASITA members] are dealing not with APEC delegations but with domestic and foreign travel agencies and tourists that usually book their tickets months ahead. We cannot just immediately cancel their flights," Ardana complained.

He further said that ASITA's overseas partners had continued to sell holiday packages because they had not received an official announcement or information.

"By providing the latest information on the planned schedule, at least ASITA members can communicate with overseas partners in a proper and professional way," Ardana declared.