Travellers hit by ash cloud disruption
Jen Rosenberg June 13, 2011
Stranded planes in Sydney yesterday. Photo: AFP
TENS of thousands of passengers hoping to return from the long weekend have no way of knowing when they can leave Sydney as airlines cancelled flights to Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand due to volcanic ash spreading from an eruption in Chile.
Qantas was the first to act, stopping most flights to NZ and Tasmania yesterday morning - 22 flights affecting about 1500 passengers - and adding flights into and out of Melbourne and Auckland last night. Virgin, Jetstar, Tiger and Emirates also restricted their flights around the region, leaving thousands of passengers grounded and unable to learn when they could travel. It is estimated 25,000 people have now been forced to change plans.
Frustration was building among passengers whose flights were cancelled with no sign of when they might resume.
Christine Compson and her mother, Betty Lewis, came from Auckland on Thursday for a few days of shopping to celebrate Mrs Lewis's birthday. They learnt of their return flight cancellation in a taxi on the way to the airport, and were lucky to book a seat on Air New Zealand, but it had been an anxious wait.
''We'll do whatever's practical'' to get home, said Mrs Compson.
Air New Zealand is continuing to fly to the affected areas, choosing to fly at a lower altitude, but a spokeswoman for the company said the airline was continuing to monitor the situation in consultation with aviation and meteorology authorities.