DENPASAR, Indonesia (AP) — More than a hundred Australian citizens left the Indonesian tourist island of Bali on Wednesday aboard a special repatriation flight organized by the Australian government.
Many Australians have been stranded on Bali because flights connecting Indonesia to Australia have been limited since the spread of COVID-19 in Indonesia.
“This Qantas flight is assigned for Australian citizen repatriation which will take it to Darwin,” airport public relations manager Taufan Yudhistira said Wednesday.
The plane flew empty from Sydney to Denpasar, Bali’s capital, and took off for Darwin on Wednesday afternoon with 186 people on board, including infants and crew, Yudhistira said.
Ian Young, a passenger, said he will return to Bali after seeing his family in Melbourne.
“I have not been able to see my family,” he said. “I’ll just see my family and come back to Bali quickly.”
The Australian Consulate General in Bali said the Australian government worked in partnership with Indonesian authorities to arrange the flight for people whose planes have been canceled or whose transit options are no longer available.
It said Australia is continuing to explore ways to support Australians who want to return home.
Indonesia has been hit hard by the coronavirus, fueled by travel during the Eid holiday in May and the spread of the highly contagious delta variant. It has recorded more than 3.8 million cases, including more than 120,000 deaths.
The surge has prompted new lockdown measures since July, particularly on Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, and on Bali.