Australian airlines cancel more flights due to volcanic ash

08:41, June 13, 2011      

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Qantas planes are shown on the tarmac at Sydney International Airport. Ash from Chile's volcanic eruptions prompted Australian airlines to ground some domestic services and flights to New Zealand Sunday, stranding thousands of people after plumes drifted across the Pacific. (Xinhua/AFP Photo)

Thousands of travelers have been left stranded in Australia owing to hundreds of domestic and international flights canceled on Sunday, due to volcanic ash plume from Chile which has made its way across the Atlantic and Indian oceans is wreaking havoc on Australian airways.

Qantas canceled all 14 flights in and out of Tasmania on Sunday while eight flights between Australia and Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown of New Zealand were canceled on Sunday morning.

Low-cost carrier Jetstar canceled 12 flights between Australia and New Zealand, 24 services between Tasmania and the mainland, and 30 domestic New Zealand flights.

Qantas and Jetstar said that they expected about 16,000 passengers will be affected with their cancellation of flights.

Virgin Australia continued to fly using alternative routes and altitudes early on Sunday, but by mid-afternoon had also decided to cancel five flights to and from Australia and New Zealand.

According to Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth, it is unclear when flights will resume.

"At this stage it's safety first and safety before schedule," she told ABC News, adding "we believe it's absolutely prudent and the right thing to do to suspend operations until we have more details on the density of the cloud and the impact this will have."

She said Qantas will alert passengers if flights on Monday will be affected.

Chile's Puyehue volcano is more than 9,000 km away from New Zealand, and strong winds have carried its ash across the Pacific since the eruption more than a week ago.

Airservices Australia said the volcanic plume could affect air travel between Australia and New Zealand for the next few days.

In a statement, it said the main ash cloud had reached airspace in southern Tasmania and the south island of New Zealand, but it was expected to pass to the south of the Australian mainland.

Airservices Australia said traffic management officers were working with airlines to minimize disruption by re-routing aircraft wherever possible.

The eruption is also causing travel chaos in parts of Argentina and Uruguay, and has also affected flights in the south of Brazil.

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Source: Xinhua
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