Airlines struggle to clear backlog from volcanic ash cloud
Australia's main airports Wednesday were working to to clear a backlog of 70,000 passengers as the volcanic ash cloud which grounded hundreds of flights was blown out to sea, DPA reported.
Airlines resumed flying in the afternoon from Sydney and Melbourne airports as the air cleared, but said the ash cloud would continue to stop flights to Tasmania and New Zealand at least until Thursday.
Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre director Andrew Tupper said the ash cloud was blown towards New Zealand and was still drifting over Tasmania as it continued its second lap of the planet.
Tupper told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation it was "exceptional" that ash from the Chilean volcano had twice circumnavigated the globe, but was unlikely to do it a third time.
He predicted the cloud would be south of Australia and more dispersed by Thursday.
The trouble moved east as the cloud drifted and over New Zealand's North Island, causing air travel disruptions Wednesday. Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd and its budget carrier, Jetstar, cancelled all their New Zealand flights.
The national carrier, Air New Zealand Ltd, said it was continuing to fly but would monitor the situation.
The airline said its planes could fly below the ash cloud, which was floating at a height of 7,300 metres.
Qantas announced Wednesday that the ash cloud had cost the airline 21 million Australian dollars (22.3 million US dollars) since it began disrupting flights two weeks ago.
Many frustrated passengers resorted to buses and trains to get to their destinations. Intercity trains were adding extra carriages and bus operators added dozens of extra coaches to meet demand. Car rental operators reported being sold out.