With the imminent full-scale eruption of Mount Agung, all travel arrangements to and from Bali have been cancelled. This is naturally causing a lot of confusion and chaos among travellers who are already in Bali and those who had planned to visit Bali soon. To help minimise the financial impact of this event on travellers, we've prepared a rundown of steps to take depending on your situation.
If your planned trip is disrupted
If your planned trip is cancelled, it's actually possible to recover all, if not most, of your cost. Most vendors have announced their willingness to be flexible with their customers' bookings, and travel insurance policies should also be capable of providing reimbursements.
Essentially all of the flights until 29 November have been cancelled thus far, with possibly more to be cancelled in the next few days. If your flight has already been cancelled or is scheduled for departure before 4 December, you are basically given a choice of either rescheduling your flight (to different time or destination) or getting a refund. There some nuanced differences among airlines on how this is done. We've summarised the different options by airline below:
- Singapore Airlines, Scoot and SilkAir: Flights to Bali between 27 November and 4 December can be rebooked to another date or refunded. You can also re-route your flights to other SE Asia destinations. The new travel date must commence on or before 31 January 2018.
- Air Asia: If your flight was cancelled, you can either rebook for a different travel date within 30 days from the original flight time, or get a refund in a credit account for your future travel with AirAsia.
- Jet Star: If your flight was cancelled, you can either rebook for a different travel date or different destination; the new travel date must commence before 14 December. You can also get a refund in a credit account for your future travel with AirAsia.
Hotels and activities
In general, it seems like there hasn't been any large-scale concerted effort from hotels and tour companies to accommodate refund or rescheduling requests. If you weren't able to reschedule or get a refund for your bookings from the vendor or a travel agency, you can still recover your costs by making a claim on your travel insurance policy. Because the volcano actually has erupted and frozen all air traffic, travel bookings that are otherwise unrecoverable should generally be covered under the "trip cancellation and loss of deposit" or "trip postponement" section of your policy. To file a claim, you need to have your booking receipt and confirmation on the cost of non-refundable prepaid travelling expenses.
If you are stuck in Bali
If you are stuck in Bali, you are likely going to be stuck there for some time. There are several reasons for this. First, nobody knows when the volcano eruption will stop and allow normal flight schedules to resume. Even if normal services re-start, however, priority will be given to people already booked on those departures rather than those whose flights have been cancelled. With a huge backlog of travellers who are eager to return home, there may not be enough seats on those flights for everyone for some time. Likely, there are two possible actions you can take.
First, one possible but difficult alternative is to utilise one of the charters chartered by the airline companies to get to Surabaya. Once you arrive in Surabaya, you can fly back to Singapore. The total trip is expected to take about 18 hours. To get on these coaches, you should first contact the airlines to get a confirmation on your seat before heading to the airport.
If you are not one of the lucky few who were able to secure a seat on these coaches, however, you should be prepared to spend a few more days in Bali. People who booked their trip through legitimate agencies should ask their agencies to provide some care in terms of accommodation. Otherwise, you should contact your travel insurance company to make claims. Most insurance policies should cover travel delay or postponement due to natural disasters like a volcanic eruption, and reimburse you for your extra accommodation expenses.
If you are worried about your future trips to Bali
Currently, there is no clarity on what will happen to travel bookings that are scheduled beyond 4 December. Most likely, airlines and other travel related companies will adhere to a "wait-and-see" attitude. Depending on what happens with Mount Agung over the next week or so, there might be further cancellations. However, there is no way for prospective tourists to ask for refunds on their bookings this far in advance. For now, the only thing you can do is to wait.