Ash plume causes flights havoc

The plume of ash from Chile's Puyehue volcano is causing flight delays over South America, New Zealand and Tasmania.
The plume of ash from Chile's Puyehue volcano is causing flight delays over South America, New Zealand and Tasmania. Photo: Reuters

About 8000 air passengers have faced a long day of travel misery and disruption as an ash cloud from a Chilean volcano and fog in Melbourne wreak havoc on schedules, forcing airlines to cancel and divert scores of flights today.

The drifting ash clough from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano forced Qantas to cancel 22 flights affecting at least 1500 passengers as the plume covered some Australian and trans-Tasman air space.

Qantas' no-frills subsidiary, Jetstar, was forced to cancel 48 flights today, with more than 3000 passengers affected.

Qantas said all its flights in and out of Melbourne and Auckland would be grounded from 6pm.

All flights to and from Tasmania and Christchurch, Queenstown and Wellington had already been cancelled.

And airlines can't rule out further cancellations tomorrow or the following days.

"We're monitoring the situation as to what the impact may or may not be tomorrow. We'll know more this afternoon," a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said the number of flights cancelled was "obviously a lot" but "safety is our first priority".

"We have a policy not to fly through or underneath volcanic ash plumes," he said.

One passenger contacted The Age claiming he had been told Qantas and Jetstar disruptions would stretch into Wednesday, but neither airline could immediately verify this as true.

"Qantas and Jetstar has cancelled all flights to Tasmania til Wed 16 June. This is confirmed by their call centre but the website is listing flights today as going ahead. No flights between now and Wednesday can be booked however," traveller Andrew Cerchez said.

Qantas's spokeswoman said the decision on further cancellations depended on information from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre (VAAC) in Darwin.

"We're in close contact with them but we want to give out the most accurate information," she said.

"We're doing call out to affected passengers on affected flights, about 1500 passengers at this stage, and rebooking them on first available services."

Jetstar would make a call later today on what further cancellations may be required, Mr Westaway said.

Qantas and Jetstar today cut off all mainland air links to Tasmania, cancelling 30 flights to and from Hobart, Launceston and Devonport.

And trans-Tasman flights to New Zealand are severely curtailed, too, with Qantas cancelling eight flights between Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington with Australia, and Jetstar axing 10 flights.

Jetstar cancelled 20 internal New Zealand flights.

Depending on the VAAC's advice, passengers may have to be rebooked again if tomorrow's flights are cancelled, Qantas's spokeswoman confirmed.

"Potentially, yes, and then we'll have to rebook them again," she said.

An eerie pea-souper that blanketed Melbourne this morning added to the flight confusion for services into and out of Melbourne Airport on the busy Queen's Birthday long weekend.

"There has been some disruption in terms of landing into Melbourne and flights are being held at their departing ports. Some flights have begun departing Melbourne Airport," Qantas's spokeswoman said.

"But they are delayed."

Qantas had to divert incoming international flights away from Melbourne: QF10 from Singapore and QF94 from Los Angeles were diverted to Sydney.

Jetstar had two Melbourne-inbound international flights diverted, one from Singapore diverted to Adelaide and a Denpasar flight diverted to Sydney.

Virgin Australia had "disruptions right across the network" this morning due to fog, a spokeswoman said.

"We weren't able to depart any aircraft until 8:30 this morning. That has had a significant disruption right across the network," she said.

"We had one international Denpasar flight divert to Canberra."

Virgin Australia would shortly update its information on flights affected by the ash cloud, she said.

The fog disruptions came on top of cancellations from the airlines acting on meteorological advice that a long ash cloud from the Chilean volcano had drifted across southern Australia and across the Tasman Sea.

The ash cloud was drifting east at 50 knots, at an altitude between 20,000 feet and 35,000 feet, an altitude where passenger jets typically fly.

The cloud stretched in a broad patch south of the width of Australia, covering southern Victoria and the Tasman Sea towards New Zealand, according to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin.

Airlines won't fly planes through volcanic ash clouds as the fine soot particles can clog aircraft engines, a significant risk to aircraft and passenger safety.

- with AAP

CANCELLED FLIGHTS

The following Qantas and Qantas Link services will be cancelled today:

QF1010 Hobart to Melbourne scheduled to depart at 6.05am local

QF45 Sydney to Christchurch scheduled to depart at 7.15am local

QF2051 Melbourne to Devonport scheduled to depart at 8.30 local

QF1011 Melbourne to Hobart scheduled to depart at 8.45am local

QF47 Sydney to Wellington scheduled to depart at 8.55am local

QF37 Melbourne to Wellington scheduled to depart at 9.05am local

QF121 Sydney to Queenstown scheduled to depart at 9.05am local

QF1020 Hobart to Sydney scheduled to depart at 10.40pm local

QF2053 Melbourne to Devonport scheduled to depart at 1145am local

QF2054 Devonport to Melbourne scheduled to depart at 1.15pm local

QF46 Christchurch to Sydney scheduled to depart at 1.25pm local

QF1019 Sydney to Hobart scheduled to depart at 2.15pm local

QF122 Queenstown to Sydney scheduled to depart at 3.00pm local

QF38 Wellington to Melbourne scheduled to depart at 3.10pm local

QF2285 Melbourne to Launceston scheduled to depart at 3.20pm local

QF2057 Melbourne to Devonport scheduled to depart at 3.40pm local

QF48 Wellington to Sydney scheduled to depart at 3.55pm local

QF1012 Hobart to Melbourne scheduled to depart at 4.50pm local

QF2286 Launceston to Melbourne scheduled to depart at 4.50pm local

QF2058 Devonport to Melbourne scheduled to depart at 5.10pm local

Please check the flight status page for the most up-to-date flight information.

http"//www.qantas.com.au/travel/airlines/flight-status/global/en

 

Trans Tasman scheduled services

JQ 140 Christchurch – Sydney (departing 0635)

JQ 143 Sydney – Christchurch (departing 0855)

JQ 156 Christchurch – Melbourne (departing 0615)

JQ 159 Melbourne – Christchurch (departing 1200)

JQ 219 Melbourne – Queenstown (departing 0845)

JQ 220 Queenstown – Melbourne (departing 0955)

JQ 190 Christchurch – Gold Coast (departing 1615)

JQ 191 Gold Coast – Christchurch (departing 1830)

JQ 182 Christchurch – Brisbane (departing 1455)

JQ 183 Brisbane – Christchurch (departing 1730)

 

Domestic New Zealand scheduled services

JQ 243 Auckland – Christchurch (departing 0800)

JQ 244 Christchurch – Auckland (departing 0710)

JQ 245 Auckland – Christchurch (departing 0720)

JQ 246 Christchurch – Auckland (departing 0910)

JQ 247 Auckland – Christchurch (departing 0905)

JQ 248 Christchurch – Auckland (departing 1105)

JQ 251 Auckland – Christchurch (departing 1305)

JQ 277 Christchurch – Queenstown (departing 0815)

JQ 275 Christchurch – Queenstown (departing 1000)

JQ 274 Queenstown – Christchurch (departing 1430)

JQ 280 Queenstown – Auckland (departing 1135)

JQ 281 Auckland-Queenstown (departing 1110)

JQ 276 Queenstown-Christchurch (departing 1335)

JQ 252 Christchurch-Auckland (departing 1500)

JQ 265 Auckland-Wellington (departing 1030)

JQ 264 Wellington-Auckland (departing 1220)

JQ 267 Auckland-Wellington (departing 1415)

JQ 266 Wellington – Auckland (departing 1550)

JQ 286 Christchurch – Wellington (departing 1515)

JQ 287 Wellington – Christchurch (departing 1635)

 

AUSTRALIA

Domestic Services to/from Tasmania

JQ 703 Melbourne – Hobart (departing 0720)

JQ 702 Hobart – Melbourne (departing 0905)

JQ 731 Gold Coast – Hobart (departing 0800)

JQ 732 Hobart – Gold Coast (departing 1105)

JQ 721 Sydney – Hobart (departing 0725)

JQ 720 Hobart – Sydney (departing 0950)

JQ 735 Melbourne – Launceston (departing 0810)

JQ 736 Launceston – Melbourne (departing 0945)

JQ 705 Melbourne – Hobart (departing 1120)

JQ 706 Hobart – Melbourne (departing 1305)

JQ 709 Melbourne – Hobart (departing 1450)

JQ 710 Hobart – Melbourne (departing 1645)

JQ 739 Melbourne – Launceston (departing 1200)

JQ 742 Launceston – Melbourne (departing 1335)

JQ 747 Sydney – Launceston (departing 1030)

JQ 748 Launceston – Sydney (departing 1245)

JQ 753 Brisbane – Launceston (departing 1250)

JQ 752 Launceston – Brisbane (departing 1555)

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