Ash cloud grounds more flights

Last updated 13:59 30/06/2011

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Jetstar dismisses claims as 'absurd'

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It's like the unwanted dinner guest that just won't go away.

The ash cloud from a Chilean volcano is again causing disruption to New Zealand flights, after a wind change pushed the ash back over the country.

Jetstar and Qantas have cancelled all their flights to and from Wellington, Queenstown and Christchurch this morning.

The airlines also grounded flights from Christchurch and Queenstown yesterday.

Air New Zealand continues to fly.

Civil Aviation meteorologist Peter Lechner said the ash cloud was moving slowly back up the South Island and would be around for at least a day, but should be completely gone in two or three days.

The cloud, from Mt Puyehue Cordon Caulle, has caused travel chaos in New Zealand and Australia for more than two weeks, with hundreds of flights cancelled.

Opposing decisions from the airlines - with the Australian companies choosing not to fly because of safety reasons, while Air New Zealand chose to fly at a lower altitude - have confused customers and caused friction in the industry.

Jetstar released a statement yesterday denying suggestions from Forsyth Barr aviation analyst Rob Mercer that the Australian airlines chose not to fly to cut costs.

Jetstar Group chief executive Bruce Buchanan called the speculation "absurd".

"The mere suggestion that grounding your entire operation in market - hundreds of flights over a two week period - would improve financial performance is out of touch with the tough reality of running an airline," Buchanan said.

And last week, Air New Zealand Chief executive Rob Fyfe hit out at "malicious rumours" emerging from Australia alleging some of its aircraft had been damaged by ash.

He also slammed rivals Qantas for sending an email to customers justifying its decision not to fly and implying it was dangerous for other airlines to fly.

However, Qantas denied it made such implications.

FERRY DISRUPTION

Sailings of the Interislander Cook Strait ferry face disruption with the ship Kaitaki to resume its passenger sailings at 8.30am on Saturday morning.

Interislander general manager Thomas Davis said yesterday Kaitaki sailings would be disrupted because of illness to deck officers and weather issues.

The services affected are this week's morning sailings of Kaitaki from Wellington at 8.25am and the ship's early afternoon return sailing from Picton at 1.45pm.

In the meantime Interislander passengers are being offered sailings on the ferry Arahura which sails from Wellington to Picton at 2.40pm and returns from Picton at 6.40pm.

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"We appreciate that this disruption is bad for our passengers and our freight customers. We apologise for the delays and we are working as hard as possible to ensure that those delays are as minimal as possible."

However Davis said today an Interislander captain was now available to sail Kaitaki's morning sailings from Wellington to Picton on Saturday and Sunday as well as the return sailings from Picton.

Strong southerly swells were also affecting sailing times, causing delays, Davis said.

- Stuff

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