Loyalty Lobby Blogger Kicked Out Of Bali For False Story About Long Immigration Lines

The Loyalty Lobby blog recently wrote a post, that apparently went viral, claiming that immigration lines in Bali were five hours long, that the airport had “Become A Total Hellhole” and warning people to stay away. He said people were crying and needed medical attention during their waits.

In fact it took the blogger who writes under the name Sebastian Powell 53 minutes to get through immigration, which is a long time when using a VIP fast track service as he apparently did after his Thai Airways flight from Bangkok. His story was apparently based on what one traveler told him about their experience.

Bali has been starved for tourism during the pandemic, with tight restrictions on entry to Indonesia. The story went viral and the government viewed it as harmful to their economic recovery. So they kicked the blogger out of the country suggesting it spread misinformation.

  • They acknowledge longer than usual immigration lines
  • But say the five and a half hour waits, and stories of passengers in distress, were a harmful exaggeration. Authorities say that wait times varied from 13 minutes to 2 hours on the day in question.

The person concerned only tells what people say, but he can’t be sure when it happened, where it happened…So, you can say this is a little bit of a makeup story…the person concerned is a German citizen, an international blogger, and previously a tourist. Based on his track record, based on CCTV footage at [Bali Airport], from the time he got out of the immigration clearance [area], was 53 minutes’.

Friday afternoon peak arrivals between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. are taking longer to process with “16 of the Immigration Counters are undergoing renovations ahead of the G20 Summit in November.”

The Loyalty Lobby story made a strong claim about an airport ‘hell hole.’ It was based, apparently, on a single anecdote that the government denies. And thinly sourced pieces that offend those in power are treated differently in some parts of the world than in others. In Saudi Arabia stories that the MBS doesn’t like can end up far worse for the author.

In the U.S. one thinks of such things as protected, but the federal government here has a history of going after journalists – and not just for actual or alleged violations of law. And that has happened under both Republicans and Democrats.

And Remember when the Biden administration appointed a disinformation czar? The idea struck many as creepy, and her TikToks were cringe-worthy – perhaps that was the appointment’s undoing.

Social media companies censor or flag things as ‘disinformation’ or ‘misinformation’ all the time, throttling stories they deem false even that turn out to be true later. That’s been the case throughout the pandemic, and no matter what side you’re on you have to acknowledge that they got the Hunter Biden laptop story wrong before the election.

Since-removed, but last week Twitter fact-checked CDC, calling out the agency for misinformation on monkeypox.

While monkeypox may be spreading more easily than in past outbreaks, and there are some cases outside the boundaries of specific communities (but unclear R0 > 1 in those instances), it does seem that aerosols aren’t a primary vector of spread in the current outbreak. CDC’s tweet might have been more nuanced but in terms of useful advice they’re probably more on the mark than they have been in much of their recent guidance! (Josh Barro argues that overall CDC is still failing in its advice, and that New York City is doing a better job.)

I take a light hand in the comments of this site because I’m not confident in my ability to limit myself to deleting information that is clearly wrong. It’s easy to slip into then acting on comments that seem ‘unfair’ and what’s unfair is subjective – maybe it criticizes me too much! But deleting a comment here on this blog is a fairly minimal penalty.

Traveling to another country you’re subject to its laws, and in some countries the whims of those in power effectively replaces law. When you travel to the Mideast there are numerous activities in normal life that are officially illegal (in some places, homosexuality still or drinking outside of designated places without a permit). It’s fine to engage in prohibited activity until it’s not.

Hat tip to One Mile at a Time for this story who writes “This is a good reminder that it’s important to be accurate and not exaggerate or embellish when writing things online, especially when you’re a guest in another country.” That’s true, but it’s also a reminder of the consequences for angering those in power, whether with stories that are accurate or not. And a warning that we don’t want that to happen here – even for people who write something that turns out to be exaggerated.

Update: There are two ways to read the government action with respect to this blogger’s stay in Indonesia. I interpreted the government saying ‘must leave the country before expiration of visa’ as signifying an early revocation of stay (as opposed to having to leave when the visa expires). Another read is that the country is unwilling to renew the visa. Either way they’re saying they do not want the blogger in question present going forward.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s easy to understand why VFAW and OMAAT are criticizing loyalty Lobby.

    The LL site has day by day become more relevant to tis audience. They have stuck to their original values. They talk about Loyalty.

    As opposed to OMAAT which should be renamed ” The Sponsored US Credit Card Daily”

    All VFAW does is write about fights on planes, or babies whose diapers were left on a plane or recalcitrant TSA people. Frankly, it has become irrelevant in this space as it becomes a daily gossip sheet. It used to be better than it is now. Every time I read an “article” with VFAW, I am left empty. They cannot possibly be proper journalists.

    Loyalty Lobby however has stuck to its original values.

    So when it comes to truth from the corrupt, radical, dictatorial left-wing Indonesian Government versus Loyalty Lobby, I know who I believe and it isn’t the Indonesian Government, LOL.

    The fact that it kicks someone out the country because it doesn’t like what they say is proof of the viciousness and the hate and the dictatorial nature of the Indo Government.

    Instead of kicking LL out of the place for not liking what they said, they should engage with LL and let them see first hand the corruption and the stealing from the people of Indonesia.

  2. I was there a month ago… no problem with wait time at all… he must have caught them on a bad day.

  3. @Robbo – “Every time” you are “left empty” yet here you are reading VFTW again!


  4. The same people who appointed a “Disinformation Car” in the USA insist that men can get pregnant, there are 63 genders and the earth will will in 8.72 years .

  5. Is “Robbo” Sebastiáns middle name? So obvious that comment was written by him or John. Anyone who reads LL knows all they do is whine to the extreme. And now someone has finally had enough.

  6. The lesson, Gary, is to accurately carry stories about what YOU experience and not take other people’s internet accounts of their travel experiences as gospel and rebroadcast them- because they are very likely biased and without context.
    There is no thought leadership in regurgitating someone else’s story.

  7. Robbo’s comment is hilarious, “Robbo” was quick to pounce trashing this site [he seems to be ‘Sebastian’ and appears to get a lot of his content from Lucky and Gary without attribution so clearly reads them regularly] when HE WAS THE ONE WHO GOT THE STORY WRONG AND WAS KICKED OUT OF BALI. Easier to attack others I guess.

    He’s one of the most unethical bloggers out there. Based on information from accounts that match the blogger’s stories I believe that Sebastian isn’t his real name. I am told that he abuses hotel front desk staff and demands compensation and uses his platform to malign properties that don’t give him more than he is entitled to.

    Finally got his comeuppance it seems!

    Someone In The Hotel Industry

  8. Twitter fact checking the cdc with a guy who’s built his entire following pedaling fear porn? The same guy that pushed for school closures because Covid is so dangerous for kids while moving his family to Austria so his kids could attend in person school?

    Alright then. Good work Twitter.

  9. Hey Vinny ( LOL ) No mate I am my own person and have nothing to do with LL. I think for myself, I speak for myself. LL is more relevant these days than the other 2, that’s all. That’s my opinion and as far as I know I am entitled to it. And so are you mate. So STFU just because you disagree.

  10. Gary-
    Speaking of misinformation, is your headline even true? According to the article, he has a 30-day tourist visa and they are giving him a warning that he has to “before 30 days to leave Bali or Indonesian territory”. Isn’t that just how visas work?

    OMAAT seems to interpret this as just saying they won’t give him a visa extension. Things may have changed, but when I tried to get an extension 12 years ago it was not an easy process anyway.

    But if that is all true, then its good to know that everytime I visit Europe I can say I am being “kicked out” because my Schengen visa is only good for 90 days!

  11. Not fake news. Entirely accurate. Powell’s post clearly stated that he himself got thru immigration in 53 minutes but only because he had paid a “concierge” to rush him through. The seething crowd who hadn’t paid a concierge or found another way to bribe the officials, they were consigned to a 5 hour wait.

  12. I do find reviews on Loyalty Lobby to be very nit picky. This Sebastian Powell is always doing posts on compensation. The one thing that I find strange with Loyalty Lobby is none of the contributors have a bio or a face pic. The supposed owner is John Olilala who it seems has never ever had his picture taken anywhere. From this anonymity, I have begun to place less faith on their posts. I guess my gut feelings were correct.

  13. I applaud Gary for noting that the U.S. government harasses and persecutes journalists here when the powers that be deem something sensitive like Hunter’s laptop or people who publish info about government spying or torture programs (Iraq war).

    Something Gary forgot to mention is speech is a crime in Europe. Stating fact and telling the truth is considered a crime if it offends select groups that are allowed to be offended (Muslims, Blacks, Arabs, South Asians, and etc) but other groups are not allowed to ever be offended (Christians, Whites, Asians, and etc). In Britain it’s not the individuals who participate in Muslim rape gangs who are hounded by police but the people who report the crime in the media.

    People saying Russia should be sanctioned should look at all European countries which criminalize speech and persecute Christians. Christians were arrested for going to church during Covid and people are arrested for self defense so we don’t have to look to Europe. We can look to every cop in our neighborhoods who participates in this.

    Twitter was actually being honest for once in labeling them CDC narrative about monkeypox as false. Anyone who says he or she doesn’t trust the government should not trust the government’s center for disease control.

  14. Yes, LL can be a bit whiny and they aren’t great ombudsmen, but it serves its purpose, especially for those of us (1) who live in Asia and (2) who want pertinent info on a program that isn’t Hyatt/Hilton/Marriott. Sebastian isn’t the only writer, unless he’s actually John when he’s feeling prickly! But Sebastian’s grammar and vocabulary are atrocious, worse than VFTW was at its worst.

  15. @ Robbo

    “They have stuck to their original values. They talk about Loyalty.”

    Yes, your are right in that LL articles address topics of potential relevance to potential travel loyalty programs. There can be useful pointers to current deals and opportunities.

    But that is a matter of scope – not values.

    LL is utterly lacking in any “values” regarding the integrity of its content and is particularly odious in its portrayal of other countries – its style is factually inaccurate, derogatory, highly opinionated and arrogant.

    No values there.

    “They cannot possibly be proper journalists.”

    The websites you cite are travel blogs, written by blogsters – who exactly is claiming any credentials as a”journalist”?

    “Loyalty Lobby however has stuck to its original values.”

    There are certainly no journalistic values evident in LL per comment above – the portrayal of other countries is vile.

    “So when it comes to truth from the corrupt, radical, dictatorial left-wing Indonesian Government versus Loyalty Lobby, I know who I believe and it isn’t the Indonesian Government, LOL.”

    Coincidentally, that is exactly the sort of ignorant statement you will find on LL. It is exactly the sort statement that would validate my perception of a writer or blog lacking any “values”.

    The press article says that the LL twat was given a warning and would have to leave the country before the end of his current 30-day visa.

    “The fact that it kicks someone out the country because it doesn’t like what they say is proof of the viciousness and the hate and the dictatorial nature of the Indo Government.”

    The attitudes expressed in LL towards other countries are utterly appalling.

    You yourself are misrepresenting the content of the article in The Bali Sun.

    LL published an article with an angle based on the “hearsay” of another traveller – a professional journalist would take measures to verify a claim before publishing.

    “Instead of kicking LL out of the place for not liking what they said, they should engage with LL and let them see first hand the corruption and the stealing from the people of Indonesia.”

    According to the article they did meet with him and shared information on immigration processing times. This cross checks with a follow up article on LL. The media article does not claim that the LL twat was kicked out – only advised to leave before the end of the 30-day visa.

    Your post has the “values” of an article from LL – i.e zero.

  16. @ Tim Dunn says:

    “There is no thought leadership in regurgitating someone else’s story”

    There is also the small matter of whether the LL lout was actually “kicked out” or given a warning and asked to live within the limits of his existing visa (as @ Sco has questioned above).

    Has @ Gary been too hasty to headline and sensationalise (once again)…?!

  17. @ harry hv

    “Not fake news. Entirely accurate.”

    Which clearly explains the need for the dopey twat to have to write a follow up article – right?

  18. It is a shame that LL sensationalized their post (not uncommon for LL, for sure) and perhaps over-emphasized a suspect anecdote from another traveler, but I would just point out that they seem to have been covering what, in general, seems like was indeed a real issue (if not quite as dire as they depicted).

    The post in question includes pictures of the immigration hall that apparently he took that sure seem… filled with people. The government even seems to be acknowledging that at peak times lines reach “no more than two hours” which they consider “still a normal situation”. He even paid for VIP service and was there for an hour.

    Journalism isn’t always perfect, the messenger isn’t always ideal, and there are always biases at play — but there’s value in sharing observations.

    Anyway, I just can’t help but think what blogger would ever want to share any negative experiences with the arrival experience going forward.

  19. @ Robbo

    dictatorial left wing government? in Indonesia?
    Government was elected in a highly contested election by popular vote.
    Left wing w/ an ulema as VP?
    what in the world are you talking about?

  20. DSP can be all over the map with customs. I’ve experienced insane 2.5 hour waits and I’ve breezed through in 15 minutes. That does not excuse hearsay as news however. The blogger should have known better than to quote 5 hours without evidence.

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