Many flights grounded, but it’s business as usual in Sarawak

KUCHING: There was relief for passengers as local airlines resumed flights to and from Sarawak after a day when most planes were grounded following the volcanic eruptions at Mount Ruang in Sulawesi, Indonesia.

However, most flights to and from Sabah were cancelled or delayed at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport in the morning, although some flights started arriving or taking off later in the evening.

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Malaysia Airlines flight MH2626 from Kuala Lumpur landed in the wee hours of Friday morning but all other flights into the airport were cancelled as the ash from the eruption continued to be a threat to airplanes.

Before that, the remains of former deputy chief minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup arrived in a commercial flight at 11.20pm on Thursday.

Despite the resumption later, flight schedules remained irregular and inconsistent, and passengers relied on counter staff to learn about their flights.

Many passengers were seen checking their phone notifications, emails and the airport screens for updates.

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Even Entrepreneur and Cooperatives Development Minister Datuk Ewon Benedick had to cancel an event in Papar today as many of his staff were unable to catch a flight to Sabah.

In a statement, Malaysia Airlines said a number of flights had resumed yesterday, although some had to be cancelled.

“Malaysia Airlines is pleased to inform that it has commenced the gradual reinstatement of flights to and from Sabah, Sarawak, and the Federal Territory of Labuan.

“While the airline endeavours to restore normal operations as soon as possible, several flights scheduled for April 19 (yesterday) have been cancelled with consideration for weather and operational safety.”

AirAsia said 59 flights had to be cancelled yesterday, which also involved other routes such as Singapore, Shenzen, Hong Kong and Taipei. Apart from that, the Sandakan, Kuching, Miri and Bintulu routes were also affected.

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In Sarawak, though, things were getting back to normal at the Kuching International Airport, with most flights arriving and leaving as scheduled.

Zairil Fikri, who was heading to Kuala Lumpur for a holiday with his family of five, said cancellations had him worried.

“I have been monitoring the news and social media for updates. I am relieved that our flight today has not been cancelled,” he said.

However, Zairil said the flight was delayed twice, from 11am to 1pm and then to 3pm.

Nur Adyliana Abdullah, who came back to Sarawak with her husband for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, said it was such a relief to find out that their flight to Kuala Lumpur was departing as scheduled.

“I was afraid the flight would be cancelled and kept checking for updates. Thankfully, our flight was not cancelled or delayed,” she said.

A group of passengers whose flights were cancelled on Thursday said they had been waiting on standby since early morning for seats yesterday.

One of them said she came to the airport at 3.30am and did not know how long she would have to wait for a seat.

“I think the airlines need a better way to manage the situation rather than leaving us waiting indefinitely,” she said.

AirAsia said it was making several options available to guests whose flights had been cancelled.

They can travel on the same route within 30 days from the original departure date or retain the value of the flight booking to be redeemed for future travel within two years.

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