Korean Air, Asiana pick up Koreans stuck in Bali

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Korean Air, Asiana pick up Koreans stuck in Bali

Korea’s two leading airlines sent charter flights to Indonesia on Thursday to rescue Korean tourists stuck on the country’s resort island of Bali after a volcano began erupting last week.

Korean Air’s Airbus 330 took off from Incheon International Airport with no passengers on Thursday morning around 6 a.m. and landed at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport at noon. An hour later, the plane departed with more than 170 Korean passengers and was due to arrive at Incheon International Airport at 9 p.m.

Located in the south of Bali, Ngurah Rai International Airport is the main gateway to Indonesia’s most popular resort island. It is less than 60 kilometers (37 miles) away from Mount Agung and was closed down for four days until Wednesday afternoon. Planes are now allowed to take off on weekdays.

“We are thinking of operating regular direct flights according to the situation,” said Korean Air in a statement.

Asiana Airlines also flew an empty Airbus 330 to Surabaya Juanda International Airport later in the afternoon. The plane, with a capacity of 290 seats, was scheduled to land at 8:40 p.m., take off again with Korean tourists at 10:10 p.m. and arrive at Incheon on Friday morning at 7:30 a.m.

Surabaya Airport is not located on Bali, but on a neighboring island. On Wednesday, over 200 Korean tourists transferred from Ngurah Rai to Surabaya Juanda International Airport. The journey is said to have taken 12 to 13 hours.

Asiana doesn’t operate regular flights between Bali and Incheon. Thursday’s flight comes as part of an agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed last year in which Kumho Asiana Group promised to provide rescue flights when natural disasters occur overseas.

BY SONG KYOUNG-SON [song.kyoungson@joongang.co.kr]
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