Over 1,000 passengers stranded at Kuching airport as 35 flights cancelled, retimed due to Mount Ruang eruption

Passengers gathering at Kuching International Airport following flight cancellations due to Mount Ruang's eruption on April 18, 2024.

By Wilfred Pilo and Karen Bong

KUCHING, April 18: Over 1,000 passengers have found themselves stranded at Kuching International Airport (KIA) today, as approximately 35 inbound and outbound flights connecting Sarawak, Kuala Lumpur, Sabah, and Singapore have either been cancelled or retimed.

The massive disruption to airline operations was due to the volcanic eruption of Mount Ruang in the Indonesia Sulawesi Islands.

Mount Ruang began erupting on Tuesday night (April 16) and has continued to do so four times since, prompting authorities to raise the alert level to its highest, level four.

The departure boards at KIA display multiple cancelled flights, including those destined for Bintulu, Sibu, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuala Lumpur.

The flight information displays at Kuching International Airport showing multiple flights have been cancelled on April 18, 2024.

DayakDaily observed scores of passengers gathered and queuing within the airport, anxiously awaiting announcements regarding the possibility of securing alternative flights for today.

Malaysia Airlines has confirmed the cancellation of 19 flights, while AirAsia has cancelled 16 flights to and from KLIA which mainly impacted routes between Kuala Lumpur and Sabah and Sarawak, causing considerable inconvenience for travellers.

Among the thousands of passengers stranded at Kuching International Airport (KIA) due to the incident are Sobrie Iwan, a private sector worker, and his two siblings.

Sobrie Iwan

Sobrie expressed frustration as they were scheduled to fly back to Kuala Lumpur after the Hari Raya Adil Fitri festival here using the 2 pm Air Asia flight, only to discover that all flights from KIA to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) had been cancelled.

“We only found out about the flight cancellations upon our arrival at KIA from Betong this morning,” he informed DayakDaily.

Upon inquiry, airline staff advised them to retain their tickets and await updates on the next available flight out of Kuching.

“We were informed we could wait up to April 23 for the next available flight to Kuala Lumpur. This is an act of nature, and airlines are concerned about volcanic dust and particles resulting from the Mount Ruang eruption in Indonesia,” Sobrie explained.

They found accommodation in Kuching with an elder brother and awaited further instructions from the airline regarding their departure.

“We cannot anticipate anything; it’s up to the airlines to manage us. If the wait extends, we may return to Betong,” he added.

Wan Mohammad Aziz points to the flight information display, highlighting his cancelled flight.

Similarly, Wan Mohammad Aziz, a Ministry of Defence personnel, his wife, and two children from Kampung Bako, anticipated returning home to Malacca after the Hari Raya holiday but may need to reschedule their Air Asia flight to Kuala Lumpur.

“I am unsure of the airline’s next course of action. If we cannot fly today, we will return to Bako and hope to reach Malacca before I resume work on Monday,” he shared. — DayakDaily