Flights delayed or grounded over poor visibility as haze worsens
Airlines including SilkAir, Scoot scrapped flights to and from Malaysia
In Penang on a business trip, sales executive Courtney Sim noticed the air quality getting worse on Tuesday.
Even as the haze thickened the next morning, it was only at the airport that Ms Sim, 26, found out flights were being delayed, diverted and even cancelled due to the poor visibility.
The Singaporean's flight home, scheduled to depart at 3.35pm, was one of five cancelled SilkAir flights as Air Pollutant Index readings in Penang breached 200 and entered "very unhealthy" levels yesterday.
Another SilkAir flight bound for Penang had to be diverted to Medan, Indonesia - more than 400km away.
Haze also disrupted flights in and out of Ipoh and Subang.
Scoot yesterday cancelled all six of its flights between Singapore and Ipoh's Sultan Azlan Shah Airport, including two flights that were delayed from the day before.
Firefly also had to cancel all 12 of its flights between Seletar Airport and Subang Airport yesterday due to poor visibility.
Responding to The New Paper's queries, a Singapore Airlines (SIA) spokesman confirmed five SilkAir flights between Penang and Singapore were scrapped, while another four had to be re-scheduled.
SilkAir is an SIA subsidiary.
The spokesman said flight MI346, which was diverted to Medan, had 97 passengers and seven crew members on board.
Originally scheduled to land in Penang at 9.30am yesterday, it left Medan at 3.20pm Singapore time and returned to Changi Airport at 4.49pm.
"No SIA flights have been affected by the current haze situation to date, and they continue to operate as scheduled," she added.
The haze situation here took a turn for the worse yesterday with a total of 238 hot spots detected in Sumatra.
The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index deteriorated from 97-113 in the "moderate" to "unhealthy" band at 6am to 119-140 in the "unhealthy" band at 10pm.
Malaysian news site The Malay Mail reported yesterday that an emergency centre has been opened at Penang's airport to manage issues regarding flights affected by the haze.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow was quoted as saying visibility at the airport fell to just 1.5km at one point.
The Star reported the airport would shut if visibility dropped below 800m.
Last Friday, hundreds of passengers were stranded in Ipoh's airport after three flights were delayed as flight visibility was reduced to 2.5km.
Scoot said in an advisory yesterday it is monitoring the situation and advised customers to check its website for updates.
"Customers with flights to and from Malaysia are encouraged to prepare for possible contingencies in their travel plans, including purchasing travel insurance," it said.
A Firefly spokesman told The Straits Times yesterday it would continue to monitor the situation for the 12 flights scheduled today between Seletar Airport and Subang Airport.
Ms Sim, who was stuck in the airport for six hours, was relieved when she landed in Singapore last night.
Her company re-booked a 6pm flight for her, which eventually departed at 8.15pm.
She said: "I am just happy to be home. SilkAir kept apologising for the delays (but) the situation couldn't be helped."
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