Qantas has ferried extra fuel from Sydney to Auckland on a Boeing 747-400 as part of efforts to minimise disruption due to fuel shortages at the airport.
Airlines have been battling restricted fuel supplies at Auckland Airport since Sunday, after a pipeline which connects a refinery to the Wiri Oil Services facility near the airport was damaged, resulting in supply being reduced to only 30 per cent of normal usage.
On Wednesday, Qantas Boeing 747-400ER VH-OEG, operating as QF6011, took off from Sydney just before 2000 and landed at Auckland about two hours and 20 minutes later.
Once on the ground, ground staff transferred some 65,000kg of fuel to Qantas and Jetstar aircraft due to operate the following day.
Qantas said the fuel was transferred either directly to aircraft using special hoses, or first to a fuel truck before delivery to other aircraft.
“The preference is for the aircraft to be parked side by side to ensure the fuel transfer is completed as quickly as possible,” a Qantas spokesperson said via email.
“By tankering in fuel from Australia, as well as other measures, Qantas and Jetstar have been able to minimise the impact of the Auckland fuel shortage on customers.”
In addition to the 747-400ER fuel flight, Qantas said one of its regularly scheduled Airbus A330-200 flights from Sydney to Auckland – the QF149 operated by VH-EBP – took on extra fuel on departure from Australia, providing an additional 10,000kg of fuel to the effort.
The spokesperson said the move to deliver extra fuel with a 747-400ER was a one-off, with no further extra services planned at this stage. VH-OEG was scheduled to return to Sydney on Thursday afternoon.
With Auckland as its biggest hub, Air New Zealand has been the most affected of all airlines serving the country’s largest international gateway.
The kiwi airline has cancelled scores of domestic and trans-Tasman flights and taken on more fuel on domestic jet services from Wellington or Christchurch to limit refuelling in Auckland.
Meanwhile, a number of its long-haul services have been operating with a refuelling stop at selected airports Australia or the Pacific. It estimates about 6,000 passengers have been affected by the debacle.
Air New Zealand said on Thursday its domestic network was operating “largely as normal” with no fuel related cancellations scheduled for Friday.
“Air New Zealand remains in close dialogue with key stakeholders including government, its agencies and fuel companies and believes the situation is stabilising and will continue to be manageable in the absence any further complications,” the airline said in a statement.