Stranded Bali tourists to head home after flights axed

Bali tourists stranded as flights axed

Denpasar (Indonesia) (AFP) - Hundreds of tourists stranded on the resort island of Bali following the suspension of Tigerair Australia flights this week were given the green light to fly out Thursday after Indonesian officials grounded the carrier for violating regulations.

Officials granted Tigerair Australia permission to depart from Bali to Australia, the company said in a statement, adding that the airline would only be able to do so until January 16.

Hundreds of Tigerair Australia passengers have been forced to remain on Bali following a decision by authorities Wednesday to ground flights with the carrier after the airline allegedly broke Indonesian regulations.

The budget carrier said six of its services between Australia and the Indonesian island were axed on Thursday and Friday a day after the disruption began with the cancellation of several flights.

About 700 passengers were affected by the cancellations Thursday, and a similar number were affected Wednesday, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

Tigerair said the chaos was caused by the Indonesian government's decision to "impose new administrative requirements for the operation of its flights between Bali and Australia".

However the Indonesian transport ministry said it made the move after administrative violations by the airline.

It said Tigerair should not have been selling tickets within Indonesia for its chartered flights. Only Virgin Australia, Tigerair Australia's parent company, was authorised to sell the tickets, it said.

"All foreign airlines must comply with our regulations," ministry spokesman Agoes Soebagio said in a statement, adding all Tigerair Australia flights would be cancelled until requirements had been fulfilled.

Tigerair said Virgin Australia was sending two flights to Bali to bring affected customers back.

Bali, a pocket of ancient Hindu culture in Muslim-majority Indonesia, attracts millions of foreign tourists every year to its palm-fringed beaches and is a particular favourite with visitors from neighbouring Australia.

However travel disruptions are common. Bali airport was forced to close several times last year due to floating clouds of ash from nearby erupting volcanoes.