Fog grounds flights, spoils travel plans

AMY JACKMAN
Last updated 14:21 24/12/2012
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CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ

From left, Joe Blackbourn, Kelly Gee and Noel Faifai wait for their flight to Brisbane which was delayed due to fog.

Fog
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ
STUCK: Alexandra George waits in the queue of delayed passengers at Wellington airport.

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Fog is due back in Wellington again this afternoon and is likely to force the cancellation of more flights.

A thick fog rolled in yesterday afternoon, forcing the cancellation and delay of multiple flights and disrupting Christmas holiday plans.

Air New Zealand and Jetstar both put on extra flights to clear the backlog when the fog this morning.

But a MetService forecaster said another wave of fog was due in Wellington about 2pm.

It would stick around till about 6am tomorrow.

It was ‘‘quite possibly’’ low enough to again force the cancellation of flights.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Marie Hosking said the airline was still working to clear the backlog but its ability to do that could be hampered by the fog.

Airport spokesman Greg Thomas earlier today said the airport was busy with people coming back to connect on new flights.

Among the flights operating today were some trans-Tasman services, although some of the international flights had been delayed.

Yesterday fog which rolled in to Wellington about 1pm caused numerous flights to be cancelled. Faced with a backlog of flights, Air New Zealand cancelled all flights and told frustrated passengers to head home and contact the helpline to rebook.

Jetstar also had to cancel flights to and from Christchurch and Auckland.

Small domestic airline Golden Bay Air shuttled its passengers to Paraparaumu. From there it flew them to the popular Tasman holiday destination.

Several Qantas and Virgin services to Australia were also cancelled.

Joe Blackbourn, Kelly Gee, and Noel Faifai turned up to Wellington Airport at 4am today for a flight to Brisbane only to find out it had been pushed back till 3.40pm.

Each was due to be seeing their children and families in Brisbane.

‘‘They made the smart decision and went a few days early,’’ Mr Blackbourn said.

He had been looking forward to spending Christmas Eve with his children but would now not arrive in Brisbane till the afternoon.
‘‘It’s not as bad as other people who came here early but still a pain in the arse.’’

While the airport had been chaotic early in the day it had started to clear later in the morning.Among those stranded at the airport yesterday were the Central Coast Mariners football team, who played the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday.

Wellington residents Alison Murray and husband Shane Wilson left Auckland on a flight home at 1.30pm, but just before their plane was due to land the pilot said the fog had rolled in earlier than expected. The plane spent almost an hour circling the region before returning to Auckland.

The pair were offered accommodation vouchers and were hoping to get on a flight today.

"I hope we get back, I have to buy food and cook Christmas dinner," Ms Murray said.

Rebecca Reidy, 28, and James Price, 25, travelled to Wellington from Palmerston North to catch a flight to Nelson, where they were to spend Christmas with family.

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Reidy said they were told by Air New Zealand staff at the check-in that they would not be able to fly until Christmas Day because there were so many stranded passengers. Price said they had managed to get on the evening ferry to Picton.

Melbourne resident Nathan Sadeghi said he arrived at Wellington Airport more than three hours before his 3.40pm flight so he could relax.

On top of the fog, Qantas had also been forced to check people in manually because of computer issues and had almost finished five hours later when the flight was cancelled, he said. Alexandra George, who was trying to fly to Melbourne to spend Christmas with a friend, said she had spent a frustrating two hours waiting in line to check in.

"We have barely moved at all. I have a lot of connecting travel in Melbourne that I'm going to miss. It's just chaos."

MetService forecaster said the fog formed over the sea because moist, tropical air had been brought down with the low that was previously Tropical Cyclone Evan.

An onshore southerly flow then kept feeding the fog into Wellington.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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