Incident Reporting by SAFEY

The end of the year is usually a busy period for Bali as holidaymakers head to the Indonesian island for their year-end vacation with their loved ones. For some of them, however, their dream paradise destination turned into a nightmare, when the Mount Agung volcano erupted in late November, forcing hundreds of flights to be cancelled. Many travelers were stranded or had their plans marred as planes could not take off or land on the island’s two main airports, Ngurah Rai (DPS) and Lombok (LOP). It also reignited memories of the 2010 eruptions of Mount Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland where a six-day travel ban resulted in the cancellation of at least 95,000 flights across Europe.

In Bali, more than 120,000 tourists were thought to have been affected by the volcano as major international airlines such as Emirates and KLM as well as regional ones including Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Garuda, Jetstar and Virgin Australia among others had their flights cancelled or diverted. Although the cancellations inadvertently caused inconvenience for passengers, the local authorities in Indonesia were adamant that the airspace closure was necessary to avoid any negative consequences of volcanic ash entering the jet engine. Besides air travelling, the authorities in Indonesia also maintained an exclusion zone where at least 100,000 residents were forced to flee their homes for safety reasons.

During this period, SAFEY continuously updated its users about the situation at Mount Agung and its related disruptions with the first incident reported being published on 21 November, several days before the eruption became severe. Since then, more than 16 push notifications were sent out to SAFEY users with at least 35 people (mostly in Bali) receiving SMS alerts at the height of the eruption. Additionally, the team also made sure all pertinent information was relayed timely as both the Ngurah Rai and Lombok airports were opened occasionally for some planes to depart. Besides flight updates, we sent alerts with information that contained evacuation efforts of villagers and the on-ground disruptions so that travelers could take necessary steps to avoid being trapped in congestion on major roads.

The latest eruption of Bali’s Mount Agung will not be the final time the volcano rumbled. With experts’ warning that there could be more activities at the volcano, it also meant that there is an increased risk for air travelers in the future. For SAFEY, keeping travelers updated in such situations will always be a priority so that they could minimize the impacts from the disruptions as much as possible.

Timeline of Events

The sign of an eruption of Mount Agung in Bali started as early as 21 November and since then, SAFEY has been provided at least 16 updates to its users. Here are selected contents of the alerts: 

  • First alert by SAFEY at 19:43 (GMT+8) on 21 November
    • The first alert from SAFEY was sent to inform users about an eruption at the volcano and warned them of possible travel risks
  • Multiple alerts by SAFEY on 25-26 November
    • At least several alerts were sent out on flight disruptions caused by the rumbling volcano
  • Fifth alert (with SMS) by SAFEY at 09:48 (GMT+8) on 27 November
    • The fifth alert was sent as SMS as Indonesian authorities raised the volcano alert level to the highest as well as closing both Ngurah Rai (DPS) and Lombok (LOP) airports, resulting in major flight cancellations and diversions
  • Eighth alert (with SMS) by SAFEY at 00:13 (GMT+8) on 28 November
    • Shortly after midnight, another red alert was sent to users in Bali to update on the continuous closure of the airports as well as urging them to reconfirm their itineraries and accommodations while travelling there
  • Multiple alerts by SAFEY up until 4 December
    • Coverage of the event continued even after the threat of eruption subsided as the backlog of flights cancelled earlier still affect many tourists on the island