Volcanic Ash Stops Aussie Flights

In Americas, Australasia, News Headlines, Volcanoes

A volcanic ash plume from Chile which has made its way across the Atlantic and Indian oceans is wreaking havoc on Australian airways, forcing a number of carriers to cancel all services.

Thousands of travellers have been left stranded in Australia and New Zealand, with hundreds of domestic and international flights in and out of Australia cancelled.

Tiger Airways and Virgin Australia are the latest airlines to suspend services until further notice. Tiger has suspended all Australian services and Virgin has grounded flights in and out of Melbourne.

Qantas and Jetstar expect about 16,000 passengers will be affected with their cancellation of all flights in and out of Melbourne and Tasmania, flights between Sydney and the Gold Coast and Australia and New Zealand.

Passengers at Hobart Airport have told the ABC they may have to wait several days for another flight.

“We weren’t advised by email or phone we’ve got two phones, no advice,” said Gold Coast tourist Warren Spence, who had his Jetstar flight out of Hobart cancelled on Sunday morning.

“We’ve got a hire car, we’ve got to book in a motel for maybe one or two days. We’ve got a dog in kennels, I’ve got surgery on Wednesday.”

Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth says it is unclear when flights will resume.

“At this stage it’s safety first and safety before schedule,” she said.

Ms Wirth says Qantas staff are trying to determine what effect the ash has on aircraft.

“We believe it’s absolutely prudent and the right thing to do to suspend operations until we have more details on the density of the cloud and the impact this will have,” she said.

She says Qantas will alert passengers if Monday flights will be affected.

“We will be providing an update throughout the day to different passengers travelling tomorrow but at this stage it is only flights during today that have been impacted,” she said.

Vanessa Regan from Tiger Airways says it is hard to say when the ash will clear enough for flights to resume.

“We will continue to monitor the situation overnight, we’ll be updating passengers as soon as we can from very early in the morning tomorrow (Monday), regarding all of our flights scheduled to operate tomorrow (Monday),” she said.

“This is a natural disaster so this situation is obviously out of our control.”

Air New Zealand has not cancelled any flights at this stage, but will fly at lower altitudes to avoid the ash.

‘Exceptional event’

Strong winds have carried the ash some 9,400 kilometres since Chile’s Puyehue volcano erupted more than a week ago.

The plume of ash is now covering New Zealand’s South Island and parts of Tasmania.

It is moving towards New Zealand’s North Island and experts say it could even reach the south coast of Victoria, southern New South Wales and the ACT as it diffuses.

Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre spokesman Andrew Tupper says it is an “exceptional event”.

“It’s got a very strong satellite signal and it’s right up there with the big, big eruption clouds,” he said.

“It will keep going. I would suspect it will do a loop of the globe.

“The last time we saw anything like it was 20 years ago with another eruption from South America but this is actually a larger ash cloud. It’s pretty major.”

Airservices Australia says the volcanic plume could affect air travel for the next few days.

No ferries

Meanwhile, stranded airline passengers wanting to cross Bass Strait by ferry will not have any luck.

The Spirit of Tasmania has no available services either way between Devonport and Melbourne for two nights.

The ferry’s bookings office has been inundated with calls after Jetstar and Qantas flights between Tasmania and the mainland were grounded.

The first available ferry to Melbourne sails on Tuesday evening, while passengers hoping to book a ticket to Tasmania will have to wait until Wednesday evening to travel.

A spokesman for the company says extra daytime crossings are being considered but will depend on demand.


Mobile Sliding Menu