Bloomberg News

Qantas, Air N.Z. to Operate Most Flights Today as Ash Clears

June 16, 2011

(Updates with Queenstown resumption in second paragraph.)

June 17 (Bloomberg) -- Qantas Airways Ltd. and Air New Zealand Ltd. expect to operate most flights across the Tasman Sea today as a cloud of volcanic ash that has disrupted services for five days disperses.

Qantas will operate most flights to New Zealand although there may be delays, according to a statement late yesterday on its website. Budget arm Jetstar will resume some New Zealand routes. Air New Zealand plans to fly a full timetable after resuming flights to and from Queenstown at midday, according to an e-mailed statement today.

The airlines have started clearing a backlog of passengers caused by flight cancellations following the June 4 eruption in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex in southern Chile, which disrupted travel around the Southern Hemisphere. The ash also endangered crops and livestock in Argentina, prompting the government yesterday to declare an agricultural emergency.

Air New Zealand will ensure domestic and international flight paths continue to avoid areas of ash, the Auckland-based carrier said in an e-mailed statement. Virgin Australia will resume flights from Auckland to Australia and the South Pacific while other services are under review, it said in a statement.

Jetstar domestic and international services through Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island are canceled until at least midday, it said in an e-mailed statement. Other flights will operate, it said.

Remains Active

The Chile volcanic complex remains active as authorities observed an average of four temblors an hour and an ash cloud as wide as three miles blowing in an east-southeasterly direction, the nation’s geological and mining authority, known as Sernageomin, said in a statement on its website yesterday.

In Argentina, Buenos Aires flights likely will operate as normal today following shutdowns earlier this week, an Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 official said.

Ash in the country is destroying fodder, which will cut sheep numbers and reduce wool quality, Edgar Contin, vice president of the Rural Federation Society of Rio Negro, said by phone yesterday. Ash accumulated on sheep’s coats is also weighing them down, causing them to fall over when they run, he said. Farmers then have to help them get up again, he said.

It’s too early to calculate losses among the 300,000 sheep and 30,000 head of cattle in Rio Negro, Contin said. Parts of the province are covered by 20 centimeters (8 inches) of ash, he said.

Argentina declared an agriculture emergency in the southern provinces of Rio Negro, Chubut and Neuquen, entitling farmers to financial aid.

--With assistance from Tracy Withers in Wellington and Eliana Raszewski and Rodrigo Orihuela in Buenos Aires. Editor: Tim Smith

To contact the reporters on this story: Jacob Greber in Sydney at jgreber@bloomberg.net; Chris Bourke in Wellington at cbourke4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Neil Denslow at ndenslow@bloomberg.net


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