Flight chaos in Australia as ash cloud returns

Hundreds of flights were grounded Tuesday in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra as the Chilean ash cloud returned to Australia with a vengeance, with the chaos due to worsen over coming days.

The cloud, created by the eruption of the Puyehue volcano high in the Andes more than two weeks ago, has looped the globe and made its way back Down Under to wreak fresh havoc.

State broadcaster ABC said the travel plans of more than 120,000 people had been thrown into disarray - with an industry group saying it was Australia's worst air travel disruption for more than 20 years.

"The ash cloud is denser and larger than that which caused widespread disruption to flights last week," said Airservices Australia, adding that the plume was hovering between 20,000 and 40,000 feet (6-13 kilometres).

"It is also predicted to linger longer over southeast Australia. It is spread in a large band below the Australian continent and is predicted to continue to move to the northeast and east in coming days."

National flag carrier Qantas suspended services to and from the South Australian capital Adelaide as well as Canberra and Sydney - Australia's busiest airport.

Qantas later announced that all flights into and out of Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra would also be grounded on Wednesday, including international routes.

Virgin soon followed suit, although its Melbourne services will be reviewed at 1.00pm (0200 GMT) and flights into and out of Sydney and Canberra at 4.00pm (0500 GMT).

"We estimate that we will be cancelling in excess of 200 flights on Wednesday," Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth told reporters, adding that international arrivals and departures would be delayed until Thursday.

"The experts say we simply won't be able to operate in this situation. This has had a significant impact in the Qantas Group, but we will always put safety before schedule."

Qantas' discount airline Jetstar also called off Adelaide and Sydney flights Tuesday while Tiger Airways grounded its entire fleet, with no services anywhere.

Virgin suspended flights to Adelaide, Canberra and major hubs Sydney and Melbourne, as well as Tasmania.

Ash poses a significant threat to aircraft because once sucked into engines it can be transformed into molten glass by the high temperatures and potentially cause an engine to fail.

John Lee, chief executive of Tourism and Transport Forum, an industry body, said it was the largest disruption to Australia's aviation industry since a 1989 pilots' strike.

"We anticipate the total impact to the tourism industry will be something over Aus$10 million. It could be as high as Aus$13 or Aus$14 million but it's probably around Aus$11.5 million per day," Lee told AFP.

"It is a very substantial business disruption."

Meteorologists said that while the ash had thinned during its travels around the world it was still clearly visible on satellite images and was moving at an altitude where aircraft generally cruise.

"It is the same cloud that has gone right around the world. It is still dense and it is still hazardous to aviation," said a spokesman at the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre.

The cloud first entered Australian and New Zealand airspace just over a week ago, causing some airlines to ground all flights to affected areas while others chose to divert their planes under and around the plume.

Flights were also affected across Argentina and Uruguay.

The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre's director Andrew Tupper said the plume was a rare occurrence and a third loop back to Australia was not likely.

"A third time round would be unprecedented," he said, adding that it was a testing time for airlines.

"It is a very complex problem for the airlines to manage. Obviously they have to take a conservative approach."

mp/ajc/slb

 

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Sport
Thiago Silva pulls Arjen Robben back to concede a penalty
world cup 2014Brazil 0 Netherlands 3: More misery for hosts as Dutch take third place
Sport
Robin van Persie hands his third-place medal to a supporter
Van Persie gives bronze medal to eccentric fan moments after being handed it by Blatter
News
Ian Thorpe had Rio 2016 in his sights
people
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
scienceScientists have developed a material so dark you can't see it...
News
Monkey business: Serkis is the king of the non-human character performance
peopleFirst Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Voices
Mrs Brown's Boy: D'Movie has been a huge commercial success
voicesWhen it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Curtain calls: Madani Younis
theatreMadani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Life and Style
Douglas McMaster says the food industry is ‘traumatised’
food + drinkSilo in Brighton will have just six staple dishes on the menu every day, including one meat option, one fish, one vegan, and one 'wild card'
Life and Style
Once a month, waistline watcher Suran steps into a 3D body scanner that maps his body shape and records measurements with pinpoint accuracy
techFrom heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
News
Soft power: Matthew Barzun
peopleThe US Ambassador to London, Matthew Barzun, holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence. He says it's all part of the job
Sport
Joe Root and James Anderson celebrate their record-beaking partnership
cricketEngland's last-wicket stand against India rewrites the history books
News
Gavin Maxwell in Sandaig with one of his pet otters
peopleWas the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?
News
Rowsell says: 'Wearing wigs is a way of looking normal. I pick a style and colour and stick to it because I don't want to keep wearing different styles'
peopleThe World Champion cyclist Joanna Rowsell on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?