Ash cloud hits more Australian flights

03:39, Jun 21 2011

Beleaguered Australian air travellers are in for more disruption over the next few days as the ash cloud from a Chilean volcano, now on its second lap of the globe, drifts into Australian airspace again.

Qantas is cancelling Adelaide and Port Lincoln flights between 6.30am and 2pm (locale time). Its flights scheduled to depart Adelaide before 6.30am are expected to operate. Jetstar is cancelling eight Adelaide flights today (to and from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and to Perth).

Based on meteorological advice, Virgin has cut all Adelaide and Mildura flights ''until further notice'', the airline's head of operations, Sean Donohue, said.

Tiger has cancelled eight flights today; four on the Melbourne-Adelaide route, and four on the Melbourne-Sydney route. The Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Darwin issued new warnings that the cloud will cross the South Australian coast this morning and then the southern NSW coast late today.

Its path will take it across southern NSW and northern Victoria, the centre's director, Andrew Tupper, said.

Yesterday afternoon the plume was 2000 kilometres south-west of Western Australia but was moving rapidly at 80 to 100 knots.

It was predicted to run into a strong low-pressure system in the Great Australian Bight, which would drag it northwards, Tupper said.

The nation's air traffic control provider, Airservices Australia, warned flights in and out of Melbourne may also be affected tonight as the cloud moves eastwards. ''There is a possibility that the ash plume could affect other parts of Australia, including Sydney and Canberra, from mid to late this week,'' it further warned.

The ash from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle, which began erupting on June 4, is floating between 20,000 and 42,000 feet (6 to 13 kilometres), with the highest concentration at 10 kilometres (33,000 feet), the altitudes where airliners cruise.

While the ash cloud may not head as far north as Sydney, if it enters the air corridor between Melbourne and Sydney it could be problematic, Tupper said.

The volcano was still erupting, but spewing ash to a lower level, with most of it dissipating over the Atlantic Ocean, he said.

''This is the main eruption cloud coming around for a second bite at the cherry.''

Last week, almost 100,000 people and 700 flights were affected by the ash plume over six days of air chaos spanning from Perth to New Zealand.


Sydney Morning Herald