Flights remain grounded as ash clouds clog air routes

Virgin Australia and Qantas have grounded flights to and from Darwin Airport.
Virgin Australia and Qantas have grounded flights to and from Darwin Airport. 

Flights to and through Australia’s top end are likely to resume later on Sunday as airlines closely monitor volcanic ash clouds clogging air routes to the north.

But planes heading in or out of Darwin will be grounded until at least midday as the ash clouds dissipate to manageable levels.

Flights across Australia were cancelled on Saturday night after two of the three ash clouds released by a volcano eruption in Indonesia entered Australian airspace, over central Australia and Darwin.

While the Sangeang Api volcano continued to erupt throughout Saturday, the Bureau of Meteorology’s Volanic Ash Advisory Centrehas reported a significant decrease in volcanic activity.

Senior meteorologist Mark Kersemakers told Fairfax Media the new eruptions would have little to no impact on Australia.

“We believe the ash we were tracking from the initial eruption on late Friday afternoon is the main issue and will dissipate in the next six to 12 hours,” Mr Kersemakers said.

Qantas spokeswoman Kira Reed said all flights to and from Darwin on Sunday had been suspended until midday. Qantas is hoping to resume the two suspended domestic flights at that point. 

Virgin Australia spokeswoman Jacqui Abbott said flights to and from Darwin would resume early on Sunday afternoon. She added services to Denpasar Airport in Bali would resume at a similar time, as soon as it was reopened.

Jetstar has been contacted for comment.

The Bureau of Meteorology is not expecting any health or ash fall implications in Australia.

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