Delays and possible Christmas disruption at Australia’s biggest airports

Five-hour-plus delay as flights from Melbourne are re-routed via Sydney

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The Independent Travel

Flights to and from Australia’s second-largest city are being disrupted because of problems with the fuel supply at Melbourne airport.

A shipment of fuel destined for the airport was rejected as substandard, triggering “deep rationing” at the nation’s second-busiest airport. 

Melbourne airport tweeted: “Fuel allocations in place at Melbourne Airport due to upstream supply issues. We’re working with airlines to minimise impact on travellers.

“Please contact your airline directly with questions about flight impacts.”

It is understood that the airport has only 2 million litres of aviation fuel, which could be consumed with just a dozen long-haul flights on Airbus A380 or Boeing 747 aircraft. 

Domestic flights are largely unaffected, as aircraft can land with sufficient fuel for the return flight. But some long-haul international flights are being significantly disrupted.

Qantas services from Melbourne to Hong Kong and Singapore have been diverted to Sydney to refuel. The Singapore flight, QF35, is delayed by over five hours, while QF29 to Hong Kong is running over two hours behind schedule — wrecking plans for onward connections.

Barry Abrams of the Board of Airline Representatives of Australia said: “The latest jet fuel shortages are the result of taking no action to deal with known and avoidable supply issues."

Across at Australia’s busiest airport, Sydney, there are reports of “big holes” in air-traffic control staffing arrangements for the busy Christmas spell.

Peter McGuane of the controllers’ union, Civil Air, told the Sydney Morning Herald that job cuts combine with short-term absences could lead to “substantial delays”. And the president of the Virgin Independent Pilots Association, John Lyons, said: “You can't make 25 per cent of your workforce redundant without having some operational impact.”