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Mixed response from airlines over volcanic ash cloud

written by australianaviation.com.au | June 14, 2011

Flights into Melbourne have resumed.

Airlines have adopted different strategies in dealing with the ash cloud from Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano, which since Sunday has caused multiple flight delays and cancellations, disrupting travel plans for thousands of stranded passengers over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend.

While cancelling or delaying flights to and from the affected areas over the weekend, Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand have already resumed normal scheduled services from today (June 14), while Qantas and Jetstar have cancelled all flights to Adelaide, Tasmania and New Zealand until further notice. Meanwhile, Tiger has cancelled all flights to Adelaide but resumed other regular services yesterday afternoon.

Virgin Australia group executive Sean Donohue said that the majority of passengers affected by the weekend’s events have already been placed on alternative flights to their respective destinations, while a small backlog of passengers left behind are expected to board alternative flights scheduled throughout today. That includes additional services between Sydney and Melbourne and Melbourne and Hobart.

“Our Volcanic Ash Management Team continues to work closely with the Bureau of Meteorology and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in order to ensure determinations regarding our fleet operations are made on accurate and up to the minute data, as safety is always our highest priority,” Donohue said in a statement.

Air New Zealand meanwhile has continued to operate scheduled domestic and trans-Tasman services, with the airline “working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority and Metservice to ensure flightpaths continue to avoid areas of ash”. Air NZ claims that the airline has operated approximately 1000 flights and carried over 50,000 passengers since the ash cloud arrived in New Zealand airspace on Sunday (June 12).


“The authorities are providing excellent information about the ash which is at high altitude and very predictable in its movement. By adjusting cruising altitudes of our aircraft we are able to continue to safely deliver customers to their destinations,” Air New Zealand chief pilot and general manager airline operations and safety, Captain David Morgan said in a statement.

“Air New Zealand will not fly through ash and will continue to take guidance from CAA and the Metservice to ensure we can carry passengers where safe routes and altitudes are available,” Morgan said, adding that almost all carriers have resumed international flights to and from New Zealand.”

Noted Morgan, “The travelling public will be pleased to know that almost all carriers including Air New Zealand, Virgin Blue, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air Asia X, Air Pacific, Malaysia Airlines, Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, Korean Air and others are today operating international services to and from New Zealand.”

Qantas, on the other hand, has resumed flights to and from Melbourne, but has continued to ground all flights to and from Tasmania and New Zealand for the rest of today, and has suspended services to and from Adelaide. Jetstar has followed suit, but is considering resuming some Auckland flights this evening.

“Qantas’s policy in terms of an ash cloud is that if there is a plume over the flightpaths, if there is a plume over the airports, we simply will not operate services,” Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth told ABC News.

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