Australian flights cancelled due to Chile volcanic ash

Sydney: Thousands of travellers were left stranded in Australia after many domestic and international flights were cancelled Sunday due to volcanic ash from Chile making its way across the Pacific Ocean.

Qantas cancelled 14 flights in and out of Tasmania and eight flights to Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown in New Zealand, Xinhua reported.

Low-cost carrier Jetstar cancelled 12 flights between Australia and New Zealand, 24 between Tasmania and the mainland, and 30 domestic New Zealand flights.

Qantas and Jetstar said about 16,000 passengers would be affected.

Virgin Australia continued to fly using alternative routes early Sunday, but by mid-afternoon it also decided to cancel five flights to and from Australia and New Zealand.

Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said it was unclear when the flights would resume.

“At this stage it’s safety first and safety before schedule. We believe it’s absolutely prudent and the right thing to do to suspend operations until we have more details on the density of the cloud and the impact this will have,” she told ABC News.

Chile’s Puyehue volcano is more than 9,000 km away from New Zealand, and strong winds have carried its ash across the Pacific since its eruption more than a week ago.

The eruption is also causing travel chaos in Argentina and Uruguay, and has also hit flights in southern Brazil. (IANS)