Dozens of flights cancelled or diverted as Auckland Airport's jet fuel crisis deepens

STUFF

An Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200 carrying only its pilots has landed in Wellington to be refuelled.

Air New Zealand has begun restricting ticket sales and flying long haul jets to Wellington to refuel, as the impact of Auckland's jet fuel crisis deepens.

Thousands of passengers a day are facing disruption as airlines are forced to cut uptake from Auckland Airport to just 30 per cent of normal.

Regular supplies to Auckland have been cut after the 168 kilometre pipeline which carries virtually all of Auckland's jet fuel, petrol and diesel from the oil refinery at Marsden Point, was damaged, apparently by a digger.

People hit pipes all the time in New Zealand, but usually the consequences are more limited.
CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

People hit pipes all the time in New Zealand, but usually the consequences are more limited.

While pipeline owners Refining NZ are racing to fix the pipeline, it is expected to be shut for up to another week.

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Today fuel companies and the airlines will meet to discuss whether even more stringent fuel-rationing is needed to meet the target.

The pipeline which connects Marsden Point Oil Refinery and Auckland Airport was damaged on a farm near Ruakaka.
CHRIS MCKEEN/STUFF

The pipeline which connects Marsden Point Oil Refinery and Auckland Airport was damaged on a farm near Ruakaka.

Airlines are going to extraordinary lengths to save fuel in Auckland.

An Air New Zealand 777-200, empty apart from pilots, touched down in Wellington last night, purely to refuel, before returning to Auckland.

Previous Air New Zealand long haul flights have been making refuelling stops in Fiji, Noumea and the east coast of Australia. The Wellington stop came amid concerns the crisis has depleted aviation fuel stocks in the Pacific.

Air New Zealand has been forced to fly an empty Boeing 777-200 to Wellington, simply to refuel.
JOHN ANTHONY/STUFF

Air New Zealand has been forced to fly an empty Boeing 777-200 to Wellington, simply to refuel.

While the Wellington Airport runway is not long enough for long haul travel, a fully laden 777 can take off if it has no passengers or cargo aboard.

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The giant Boeing was one of about a dozen jets to make unexpected stops in Wellington yesterday, before returning to Auckland or carrying on to Australia and the Pacific.

The airline has begun refusing cargo, and limiting ticket sales on many international flights over the rest of the week.

More than 20 domestic and international flights have been cancelled today, including flights to Vietnam, the first long haul services it has cancelled.

A number of long haul airlines have been flying from Auckland to Christchurch to refuel before continuing to their destination.

The Government - which has been repeatedly warned of the vulnerability to Auckland's supply - has announced a raft of measures in a bid to ease demand.

Public servants have been ordered to defer non-essential travel until after the issue is resolved, while Prime Minister Bill English has even asked his caucus to stay in their electorates.

Around 30 per cent of flights out of Auckland are now being disrupted, English said.

"We're taking this very seriously. We don't want travellers to be inconvenienced in this way."

English claimed the crisis "happens to have arisen in a way that no one expected, but that's how these things happen".

Meanwhile there were the first sign of disruption to motorists, with at least 13 Z Energy sites running out of premium grade petrol.

The company insisted the shortage was as a result of a deliberate choice to focus on petrol and diesel. 

Restrictions have been lifted to allow fuel tankers to carry more fuel and deliver 24 hours a day, to prevent disruption to motorists.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the incident could damage New Zealand's reputation, and threw attention onto well known vulnerabilities in the city's infrastructure.

"It's not great for the reputational brand for New Zealand, or Auckland," Goff said, adding that the consequences of the outage were "dramatic".

"It's not great that you are vulnerable to having that single point of supply into the city."

* Comments on this article have been closed.

 - Stuff

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