Volcanic Ash from Mt. Agung disrupts flights in Indonesia


Indonesia’s Mt. Agung is spewing ash into the sky as the volcano erupts, causing significant disruptions to flights in the region. Lombok Airport is closed at least overnight and significant delays and cancellations are affecting flights in Denpasar. Travelers in the area should monitor flight status and remain in contact with their airline, of course.

But it turns out that just listening to the airline might not be enough.



Virgin Australia, JetStar, Garuda, Qantas and KLM all canceled or delayed flights to some of the airports in the area as Indonesia’s Volcano Observatory Notice for Aviation (VONA) raised its alert level to RED, the highest warning. VONA reports the ash cloud reaching nearly 20,000 feet high and expects eruptions to continue for the near future.

Indonesia's Volcano Observatory raised the alert level to RED for Mt. Agung due to ash cloud
Indonesia’s Volcano Observatory raised the alert level to RED for Mt. Agung due to ash cloud

One of the more severely impacted airlines in the region is AirAsia. No surprise there as the carrier operates a ton of flights in the region with thousands of passengers impacts so far and many more to come. What was surprising, however, was the message the company shared online Sunday morning local time with details of cancellations and customer options.

In that message the company explicitly states that passengers are “entitled to pick one of the following service recovery options being offered” including a date change of up to 30 days or a credit for future AirAsia travel valid up to 90 days. Missing from the list of options is an offer of refund for the fare paid on cancelled flights. Which is strange. The company is not delivering the service – admittedly through no fault of its own – and yet is still keeping the passengers’ money.



Even more bizarre to me is that:

1) Some people seem to think this is okay; and,

https://twitter.com/KatharineFoxx/status/934646553397956608

2) The AirAsia Contract of Carriage specifically calls out offering a refund as a valid option for passengers to choose. Read section 9.2(c) for full details there.

I get why the carrier doesn’t want to give passengers their money back. It is an expensive proposition and comes on top of the other costs related to cancelling the flights. But choosing to not refund costs after not delivering the goods or services paid for – ESPECIALLY when your contract clearly spells out that a refund is one of the options – is sketchy.

It also makes me wonder about plans for AirAsia X – the long-haul operation – to fly into Europe. EU261 regulations are far more strict about this sort of thing and the obligations more significant.

Oh, and for those on the other side of the world, Iceland’s volcanoes don’t want to be left out of the party these days either.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
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