Top Shows

Contact ONE News

Ash strands passengers, Air New Zealand flies on

Published: 7:20PM Monday June 13, 2011 Source: ONE News / Reuters

Volcanic ash from Chile continues to cause flight disruptions due to ash cloud in New Zealand and Australian airspace.

The eruption of Mt Puyehue has already caused cancellations in South America with ash blanketing towns in neighbouring Argentina.

Air New Zealand's domestic and international services have continued but domestic flights have been restricted to lower altitudes. Flights heading across the Tasman from Wellington and Christchurch altered their flight paths to be further north than normal.

Cathay Pacific also continued to fly with adjusted flight routes. Emirates resumed flights after cancellations yesterday and says it will continue to monitor the situation.

The Virgin Australia group, including Pacific Blue resumed flights to New Zealand and parts of Australia this morning.

However Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar opted to cancel flights causing disruption both in New Zealand and in Australia.

Airline safety decision

The decision to cancel while Air New Zealand flies on has upset some passengers.

Stranded Jetstar passenger Jeremy O'Hanlon told ONE News the delay and the lack of communication is frustrating.

"They haven't explained very well what's going on. It just seems logical that if one plane can take off, another one can. It just seems logical that if one plane can take off, another one can."

Jetstar and Qantas say the decision not to fly was company-wide.

In 1995 the Civil Aviation Authority grounded many flights following the eruption of Mt Ruapehu.

While the CAA says that the ash from Chile is a potential risk

airlines are making their own decisions on whether to keep flying.

Peter Lechner of CAA says that aircraft should not be flying in the ash.

"There is a danger of stalling the engines through a build-up of ash in the engines."

Australian passengers grounded

Across the Tasman the ash cloud has caused major disruption to travels as Australians mark Queen's Birthday weekend.

While Virgin resumed flights out of Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand this morning, Qantas and Jetstar remained grounded.

With over 20,000 passengers stuck in a holding pattern, terminals at Melbourne, Sydney and in Tasmania were transformed into makeshift hotels.

Passengers who lived locally were advised to "go home."

Travellers stranded at Melbourne Airport scrambled for seats on alternative transport, with those with cars trading rides for extra cash.

Three seats in a car travelling to Sydney were priced at $50 each, AAP reports.

Some relief may be in sight.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre says its expect ash to clear from the Melbourne area overnight, but warn it could go on to affect Adelaide.

International disruption

In Argentina, where the ash has closed roads and blanketed Patagonian grazing pastures and a ski resort, state-run Aerolineas Argentinas said it had cancelled local and international flights again late on Sunday.

Chile's LAN halted services to and from Buenos Aires, saying it was "constantly monitoring the weather conditions".

An estimated 60,000 travellers, mostly in Australia, had been affected, as around 200 flights were cancelled.

Despite the disruptions, airports in both countries reported little turmoil at terminals on Monday, with many affected passengers abandoning their travel plans for now.

The fine ash particles, which pose a danger to aircraft bodies and engines, were carried east by the prevailing winds to sit between 20,000 and 35,000 feet across southern parts of Australia and New Zealand.

Air travel in northern Europe and Britain was disrupted last month after Iceland's most active volcano at Grimsvotn sent a thick plume of ash and smoke as high as 25 km.

Last April, an eruption of another Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, caused worldwide aviation chaos with 100,000 cancelled flights, affecting an estimated 10 million people at a cost of $2 billion.

This was worse than the Chile disruption because it spread ash throughout the air column, from ground level to the upper atmosphere.

- With AAP