Business good for Bali helicopter company during fast boat shutdown

When you can’t boat it, take the chopper. Photo: Bali Air
When you can’t boat it, take the chopper. Photo: Bali Air

A company chartering helicopters in Bali has seen an uptick in business with choppy conditions not allowing for fast boats to make crossings to popular destinations from Bali’s eastern coast.

Dangerously high waves led Indonesia’s meteorology agency BMKG to recommend the shut down of fast boat routes last week from Padang Bai harbor to the Gili islands off of Lombok until August 25, or until conditions improve. Similarly, fast boats have not been operating regularly from Sanur to Nusa Lembongan and Penida, islands off of Bali’s southeastern coast.

Enter Air Bali. The helicopter charter has been hired by a number of tourists “stranded” in the Gilis and Nusa Lembongan, wanting to make it back to mainland Bali.

Air Bali, which is actually Bali’s first helicopter company, predominantly provides helicopter tours, but also does medical charters, and film and aerial photography throughout the region when hired.

“For the past three days, we have had many (helicopter bookings) when boats in Bali have not been operating,” Bali Air marketing manager Feny Soviani told Detik on Saturday.

“Usually we take tours in Bali, sometimes make transfers every now and then, but with the boats being cancelled, this has caused an increase of up to 50 percent of the use of helicopters for transfer,” Soviani said.

From July 19 to 20, Air Bali had about 100 passengers per day, he said. Foreign tourists were picked up and brought to Bali form Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, and also Gili Trawangan.

Merry, one tourist from Sydney, said the helicopter was the best solution for getting back to Bali, even though it was much more expensive.

“Before, we had booked a fast boat, but it was cancelled so we chose to take a helicopter,” Merry said upon landing in Bali’s Benoa Harbor.

Even though there are much worse places than being stuck in Gili Trawangan, the Australian said they had to get back to Bali to catch a plane.

“We decided to take a helicopter because we had to get back to in Bali. In three days we will return to Australia from Ngurah Rai Airport,” she explained.

But of course, escape via chopper is only for the financially comfortable. A helicopter ride costs USD450 per passenger from Nusa Penida or Lembongan to Bali, while a troop from Gili Trawangan to Bali runs for USD600 a head, according to Soviani

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