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Tigerair passengers stranded in Bali

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Hundreds of passengers have been left stranded or had their holiday plans ruined as a stoush between Tigerair and the Indonesian government grounded the airline's flights to and from Bali.

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More than 1700 travellers have been affected so far and it’s unclear how many more will be left high and dry as the airline scrambles to resolve a licensing dispute.

The airline has been forced to cancel 10 flights between Denpasar and Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide on Wednesday and Thursday after it was advised on Tuesday afternoon by the Indonesian government that it would need to comply with new licensing conditions.

At least one flight on Friday has been cancelled while another five to and from Bali remain under review, with passengers urged not to go to the airport.

There are still 350 passengers stranded in Bali awaiting flights home.

The airline says it’s working to bring home as many as possible today with Virgin Australia, which owns Tigerair, planning to operate two additional flights from Bali.

Those left behind will receive hotel accommodation while they wait for alternative flights to be found.

Five hundred affected passengers in Bali have already boarded flights home.

Would-be travellers whose Bali holiday hopes have been dashed will get a full refund.

“Tigerair Australia sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused by this decision and we are working to resume flights as soon as possible,” the airline said in a statement.

The director-general of Air Transport in Indonesia has accused the airline of breaching its agreement, which states tickets cannot be sold in Indonesia.

The airline insists it’s been complying with the agreement.

Tigerair chief executive Rob Sharp insists the airline had temporary approval from Indonesian authorities to operate between Australia and Bali until March 25, 2017 under an arrangement that had been in place for eight months.

“This involves selling tickets in Australia between Australia and Bali,” he said.

“Under the existing agreement, we are not able to sell tickets in Indonesia and we are fully compliant with this.

“If the Indonesian government does not wish to honour the current agreement, we are asking them to give us a grace period so that we can continue to fly while we work through the new requirements together.

“This would help us to support our customers who make an important contribution to tourism in Indonesia.”

Griffith University aviation expert Professor Sidney Dekker said under charter flight arrangements, like the kind Tigerair has with Indonesia, the airline would only be allowed to sell tickets from Australia and must not sell one-way tickets from Indonesia.

Unless Tigerair has broken the rules, he suggested the stoush may be the result of a misunderstanding.

And unless Indonesia has raised the matter with Tigerair previously, its response has been harsh.

“Why the harsh response? There are other ways you can deal with it – warnings or various other diplomatic ways,” he told AAP.

Furious customers have blasted the airline on social media.

Melbourne mother Megal Deal said alternative airlines were either fully booked or charging ridiculous amounts and slammed the time it would take to receive refunds, labelling the two- to four-week wait “disgusting”.

“Our long-awaited family holiday has been ruined and I have to tell my devastated kids in the morning we are no longer going to Bali today!!

“It is extremely distressing for all our family members, in particular the 5 children who have been so looking forward to spending time with their extended family.

“Needless to say we will NEVER fly with your company again and will inform others not to do so either!!”

– AAP

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