Mount Ruang eruption: Thousands of Sabah, Sarawak-bound passengers stranded


SEPANG: Thousands of airline passengers bound for Sabah and Sarawak, including Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, and Batik Air, are stranded at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) on Thursday due to the eruption of Mount Ruang in Indonesia.

A survey conducted by Bernama at 11am at Terminal 2 revealed that passengers originally scheduled to depart for Tawau at 8.20am have now been rescheduled to fly to Sandakan at 1.30pm.

However, a statement from AirAsia at noon announced the cancellation of all flights to Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei from 10am on Thursday (April 18) until 8am on Friday (April 19).

The affected AirAsia flights are those to Kota Kinabalu, Tawau, Sandakan, Bintulu, Kuching, and Brunei.

Hazwan Mohd Hanafi, 35, an administrative assistant from Kelantan, stated that he and his 20 family members were initially scheduled to depart for Tawau at 8.20am on Thursday, but were later issued new tickets to Sandakan.

"We have a wedding to attend in Tawau tomorrow. We intended to travel to Tawau by road after our flight to Sandakan. But now all flights are cancelled. We don't have any other plans yet; maybe we'll wait here at the airport for the flights to be rescheduled," he explained.

ALSO READ: Mt Ruang eruption: More than 20,000 passengers affected by flight suspensions, says Hajiji

Another Tawau-bound passenger, Norfatihah Aluddin, 15, said she and three other family members are still awaiting the latest updates from AirAsia following the cancellation of all flights.

"We have an event in Tawau this Saturday; earlier, we got a flight to Sandakan and planned to take a bus to Tawau from there, but it's cancelled too. It would be great if we could get a flight tomorrow morning," she said.

A passenger returning home to Kuching, who only wished to be identified as Annie, said her 11.35am flight was also cancelled.

"At the moment, they (AirAsia) asked us to wait for updates, so we have to be patient," she said.

Meanwhile, Mohd Firdaus Mohd Shaari, a Malaysia Airlines passenger at KLIA Terminal 1, whose flight (MH2710) from Kuala Lumpur to Sandakan was cancelled, said he is awaiting further information regarding the rescheduled flight.

"I am queuing at the counter to retrieve our checked-in luggage from this morning and inquiring about the contingency plan for affected passengers," said Mohd Firdaus, a medical assistant at the Duchess of Kent Hospital in Sandakan.

ALSO READ: Mt Ruang eruption: Air travellers in Kuching stranded as flights cancelled

It is understood that he, and his wife, who is a doctor at the same hospital, returned to the Peninsula for Hari Raya Aidilfitri on April 6 and were scheduled to resume duty on April 22.

Besides AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines and Batik Air have also cancelled their flights due to the Mount Ruang eruption.

Malaysia Airlines cancelled 19 flights from KLIA to destinations in Sabah and Sarawak on Thursday, comprising 11 to and fro Sabah and eight flights involving Sarawak.

Batik Air has announced flight cancellations for its East Malaysia routes, from and to Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Tawau, and Sibu.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia (CAAM) has alerted that the eruption of Mount Ruang volcano in Indonesia has generated ash clouds heading towards the Kota Kinabalu Flight Information Regions (FIR), potentially endangering aircraft safety within that airspace. - Bernama

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