Volcano ash cloud disrupts Tonga flights

written by australianaviation.com.au | January 13, 2015
Air New Zealand continues to show that black (ink) is the new black. (Andrew Aley)
An Air NZ Airbus A320. (Andrew Aley)

Air New Zealand, Fiji Airways and Virgin Australia have cancelled flights to Tonga due to the eruption of the Hunga Ha’apai volcano.

The volcanic activity in the Pacific Ocean had caused a plume of smoke at about 20,000 feet, according to the Wellington Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

The advisory, issued on Tuesday morning Australian time, also noted a pilot had https://vaac.metservice.com/vaa/243040-2015_28detected a “strong sulphuric smell at 16,000 feet”.

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Air NZ said Monday’s NZ970 from Auckland to Nuku’alofa was diverted to Samoa and later returned to Auckland.

The return NZ973 from the Tonga capital to Auckland was cancelled, the airline said in a statement on Tuesday.

The ash cloud in the region meant Tuesday’s NZ970 Auckland – Tonga and NZ973 Tonga – Auckland were also cancelled.

Air NZ was hoping to schedule additional flights later in the week to pick up customers affected by the disruption, should conditions improve.

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“The airline apologises for the disruption and will continue to monitor the situation closely,” Air NZ said in a statement.

“The volcanic conditions in Tonga are not currently affecting Air New Zealand services to other destinations.”

Virgin said Monday’s scheduled VA 169, which runs from Sydney to Nuku‛alofa had been cancelled. Tuesday’s VA 166 from Nuku’alofa to Auckland also would not operate. The airline said it was continuing to monitor the weather and planned to run an extra flight on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a Fiji Airways flight on Monday from Nadi bound for the Tonga capital turned back to Nadi due to the ash cloud.

Domestic flights within Tonga were also affected by the Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which last erupted in 2009.

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