Bloomberg News

Qantas, Jetstar Cancel 88 Flights on Chile Volcanic Ash

June 12, 2011

(Updates with flight cancelations in first paragraph.)

June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s biggest-carrier, and its Jetstar budget brand canceled 88 flights because of an ash cloud created by an volcanic eruption in the Andes Mountains in southern Chile.

“It is always safety before schedule,” Sydney-based spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said in an e-mailed response to questions. The airline canceled all flights to and from Tasmania, Australia, and some New Zealand services today. Jetstar has stopped 66 flights, affecting 8,600 passengers, spokeswoman Jennifer Timm said by telephone.

Airlines canceled about 320 flights in and out of two international airports in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 9 after the eruption that started eight days ago, according to the terminals’ operator, Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 SA. New Zealand airspace may be affected for at least a week, the country’s Civil Aviation Authority said yesterday.

The Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex previously had major eruptions in 1921-22 and 1960, according to the Washington-based Smithsonian Institution. The volcano may erupt for an additional 10 days, Chilean Mining and Energy Minister Laurence Golborne said on June 8.

Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd. will cancel three services to New Zealand today because of the ash cloud, Melissa Thomson, a Brisbane-based spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Sand Blasting’

Air New Zealand Ltd., the country’s state-controlled carrier, doesn’t expect delays or cancelations, a spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement. The airline is operating with changed flight paths and altitude levels where necessary, the statement said, citing Chief Pilot Captain David Morgan.

“They’re pretty fine particles that can cause damage to the windscreen of the aircraft and to the fuselage,” Bill Sommer, a spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand, said in a telephone interview today. “It can also cause problems to engines and has been known to get into hydraulic systems. It’s almost like sand-blasting.”

In 1982, all four engines on a British Airways Boeing Co. 747 stalled when the plane encountered ash spewed from Mount Galunggung in Indonesia. The plane fell for almost four miles before the pilot was able to restart three engines and make an emergency landing in Jakarta.

The eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull volcano in April 2010 caused the cancellation of more than 100,000 flights amid concern that glass-like particles formed when lava was cooled by ice might melt in aircraft engines and clog turbines.

“Qantas has significant experience in managing and assessing the impact of volcanic ash on flight operations,” Qantas spokeswoman Wirth said. “This includes managing services to Europe during the Icelandic volcano.”

--Editors: Paul Tighe, Andrew Janes

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Sharples in Melbourne at bsharples@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Tighe at ptighe@bloomberg.net


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