Over 100 Flights Cancelled Due To Forest Fires In Indonesia


Forest fires on Sumatra and Borneo over the weekend forced the cancellation of over 100 flights, according to a report in AIN Online. The fires have been causing delays and cancellations, primarily to domestic flights around Indonesia but smoke and haze have also seen Supadio International Airport in West Kalimantan and Sultan Syarif Kassim II International Airport in Sumatra temporarily close.

Both Garuda and Lion Air had to cancel flights last weekend owing to smoke and haze from forest fires. Photo: Riyad Filza via Wikimedia Commons.

Cancellations, delays, and diversions

As a result, Lion Air and Garuda Airlines had to cancel 100 flights between them. According to AIN Online, Lion Air had 81 cancellations, 63 delays and nine diversions on Sunday, September 16, 2019, alone. Garuda and its offshoot, Citilink, canceled 18 flights.

The following day, Monday, September 16, 2019, 11 airports and 65 flights were disrupted around Kalimantan and Sumatra.

The worst affected area is the Malaysian/Indonesian border zone. Source: Google Maps.

Indonesia’s Ministry of Transportation stepped in over the weekend in an effort to minimize disruptions and cancellations, saying that it would coordinate with the relevant agencies and stakeholders to strike a balance between public safety and maintaining flight operations. In a statement the Ministry of Transportation spokesman Hengki Angkasawan said;

“The Ministry of Transportation has ensured that airports in Sumatra and Kalimantan affected by forest and land fires continue to operate. Even though it is operating, the Ministry of Transportation continues to coordinate with relevant stakeholders in order to maintain public safety and security.

We appeal to AirNav and operators such as AP II to be very careful in reading the situation and continue to coordinate with BNPB and BMKG. So if under certain conditions the aircraft must be delayed and prohibited from landing immediately get information.”


What’s causing the fires?

A report in the Nikkei Asian Review says the seasonal forest fires have been burning since July. The fires are spanning hundreds of thousands of hectares in the border area between Indonesia and Malaysia. The haze and smoke have seen airports and flights affected in both countries, setting off a political brawl.

Smoke and haze on Borneo and Sumatra as seen from space. Photo: NASA

The smoke and haze is affecting cities as far away as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta. However, flights are operating normally out of these cities.


Most local airports now operating normally

A check this morning finds flights operating normally out of the big airports on around the fire affected area. At Kota Kinabalu International this morning, Wednesday, September 18, 2019, there is only a single cancellation, MH2610 to Kuala Lumpur. 

Sultan Aji Muhamad Airport at Balikpapan in East Kalimantan does have a large number of incoming and outgoing domestic flights canceled across a number of airlines.

Arrivals into and departures from Kuching in Sarawak are running to schedule this morning.

Flights in and out of Syamsudin Noor Airport at Banjarmasin in South Kalimantan are also largely unaffected by smoke and haze from the fires this morning.

Flights are back to normal at Banjarmasin today. Photo: Ramzy Muliawan via Wikimedia Commons.

At Sampit in Central Kalimantan, flights are running to schedule and there are no cancellations or significant delays.

A check of the arrivals and departures boards at Supadio International Airport in Pontianak, West Kalimantan (one of the airports affected over the weekend) suggests that there are no significant delays or cancellations today.


The seasonal forest fires can burn for months every year once the dry season starts. The haze and pollution is a regular event, a fact of life as anyone who spends time in the area will attest. But with the exception of cancellations today at Sultan Aji Muhamad Airport at Balikpapan, flights in the area appear to be getting back to normal after a rugged weekend.

Simple Flying approached Lion Air for a comment about their cancellations over the weekend but had received no response prior to publication.