Ash plume causes flights havoc

Nearly 5000 air passengers face a long day of travel misery and disruption as  an ash cloud from a Chilean volcano and fog in Melbourne wreak havoc on  schedules, forcing airlines to cancel and divert scores of flights today.

The drifting ash clough from Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano forced  Qantas to cancel 22 flights affecting at least 1500 passengers as the plume  covered some Australian and trans-Tasman air space.

Qantas’ no-frills subsidiary, Jetstar, was forced to cancel 48 flights today,  with more than 3000 passengers affected.

And airlines can’t rule out further cancellations tomorrow or the following  days.

“We’re monitoring the situation as to what the impact may or may not be  tomorrow. We’ll know more this afternoon,” a Qantas spokeswoman said.

Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said the number of flights cancelled was  “obviously a lot” but “safety is our first priority”.

“We have a policy not to fly through or underneath volcanic ash plumes,” he  said.

One passenger contacted The Age claiming he had been told Qantas and  Jetstar disruptions would stretch into Wednesday, but neither airline could  immediately verify this as true.



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