Sunday, 12 June 2011
Chile Puyehue Volcano Ash Grounds Flights in Australia and New Zealand
Air travel around Australia and New Zealand has been thrown into chaos as a result of the ash from a volcano in Peru. Hundreds of national and international flights have been delayed or cancelled and passengers have been stranded at airports in Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington in New Zealand, and in Tasmania and Victoria in Australia.
The airlines affected have a focus on safety, and so are trying to put passengers onto other flights, and some are offering full refunds. Many arrivals were diverted to other cities.
Airlines including Qantas, Jetstar, Emirates and Pacific Blue have cancelled flights, and Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand are continuing to fly to Tasmania and in New Zealand, with both airlines deciding instead to alter flight routes and the height at which they travel. Intending passengers are urges to contact their airline to to find out the latest changes to travel arrangements.
The Puyehue volcano in Chile began erupting on June 4, with the initial ash plume reaching above 15,240 metres. The volcanic cloud drifted over the southern skies on Saturday night and is expected to linger for the next few days.
David Morgan, Air New Zealand general manager of operations and safety, said "The ash has travelled a great distance at high altitude and remains present at distinct altitude bands between 20,000-35,000 feet. As a result, where required, aircraft will fly at a lower altitude of 18,000 feet to remain below the ash or operate a slightly different course to remain clear of it. Our pilots are explaining this to passengers on each flight as needed."
Airservices Australia said the volcanic plume could affect air travel for the next few days. The main ash cloud had reached airspace in southern Tasmania and the south island of New Zealand, but it was expected to pass to the south of the Australian mainland. The northern edge of the cloud was expected to reach Victoria, southern NSW and the ACT, but it was also diffusing.