The Bali ash cloud: Jetstar gets two thumbs up for crisis management

 Bali's ash cloud creating havoc for travellers 

Bali's ash cloud creating havoc for travellers 

SHE was amongst thousands whose travel plans were recently affected by the ash cloud from Mt Rinjani's eruption on the island of Lombok. Bali's airport was closed on and off for 3 days, and hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed. Days passed by with no sign of the situation changing; Mother Nature was letting off some steam (literally), and no-one could predict the outcome. Social media was buzzing with stories of those who were either outraged by the airlines' choice to cancel flights, or those who were happily ensconced by a pool in no hurry to get home. People seemed to be firmly in one or other of these camps. And, of course, it was all the airlines' fault.

SHE's writing to say thank you to Jetstar, for handling a challenging, constantly changing situation in a professional way, for posting frequent communication, in a clear and concise manner, that was easy to understand. SHE knows there are plenty of people who said, as a result of this situation and their experiences: "I'll never fly Jetstar again". SHE thinks everyone is entitled to their opinion, however sometimes it's the way you choose to respond to the hand you've been dealt.

We live in a time where we want to find someone to blame, for everything that goes wrong for us. Travel does test our patience and never more so than when that travel is disrupted. It seems everyone has a horror story or two about a holiday or trip that's gone wrong. It's easy to hit out at the airlines; after all, they're the reason we're not jetting our way home or that we're missing a friend's wedding because the flight has been cancelled. Frustration is high at these times, airports aren't always the best place to be stranded, and not knowing what's going to happen next is unsettling. 

Thankfully we live in an age of online connectivity, available to most of us through smart phones, Ipads, tablets and computers we carry with us obsessively.  In 2015 it's rare to see a traveller without one of these devices. It makes sense for the airlines to choose both their websites and social media as the first preference to communicate with passengers.

Fortunately, wi-fi is readily available throughout Bali and generally free. Imagine the same scenario in Australia where a hotel commonly charges $30+ for accessing wi-fi each day, and most cafes and restaurants don't provide this service. SHE pondered how we dealt with similar situations 10 years ago...maybe we spent a lot of time sleeping at airports, standing in queues? And being very, very cranky.

Throughout the week SHE was delayed in Bali, Jetstar did an excellent job of managing and updating their information through their website. The airline communicated regularly through a travel update link on their homepage, amended flight status', and advised approximate times to visit the site for the updates.  Information was time stamped for easy reference, and advice was consistently given NOT to travel to the airport unless you had received an email or text message from the airline. It's not the airline's fault or responsibility if the contact details passengers provided on their booking form weren't valid, belonged to a mobile left at home, or if a passenger hadn't checked their emails.  This system works well, and is in place for a reason. It's our responsibility to make sure we can be contacted in the case of an emergency, or when a volcano randomly errupts!

Many people chose to ignore the advice on the website, spending hours camped out at the airport, lining up to demand answers from ground staff who repeated the same messages that had been posted online. Needless to say, the frustration levels were building. It was definitely a strange feeling, living in a 'twilight zone', not knowing when the next flight could or would depart, just standing by and waiting. How long do I extend my accommodation booking? Will travel insurance compensate me for the delay? Will the airlines compensate me for lost seat and baggage costs? Passengers were looking for answers; the airlines didn't have those answers, it was as simple as that. 

SHE knows the decision to cancel flights was not taken lightly. SHE has enormous respect for the safety standards of Australian airlines (including Virgin Australia), and it's the reason SHE chooses these travel options first. As an independent traveller, you can take as many risks as you like. Choose another airline who continues to fly despite travel warnings if you like. As an airline, you're choosing to fly at the risk of passenger and crew safety. With planes carrying around 300 passengers per flight...that's a lot of risk. SHE can only imagine what the cost of this situation has been to the airlines, no doubt in the millions of dollars. A decision to ground a plane, let alone close an airport, is not one that is made lightly. This wasn't a conspiracy, it was about safety. That's enough reason for this traveller to remain grounded, thank you. 

Ultimately, we choose how we handle the situations life throws at us. SHE's fortunate that the unexpected extra time in Bali didn't disrupt plans at home too much; being the owner and operator of a small business that's mainly online can be a bonus during times like this. SHE felt sorry for people whose plans were thrown into disarray, who missed important events back home. But life's like that. Circumstances are sometimes out of our control and it's our challenge to find a way to make the best of it.  And the reality was, there are far worse places to be stranded. 

So thank you again Jetstar, for flying this traveller home safely. Two thumbs up!

SHE travels to Bali frequently and chooses to fly Jetstar. No paid endorsement or special favours, SHE tells it like SHE sees, and experiences, it!