Volcanic Ash and Earthquakes Cause Travel Chaos in Australia and New Zealand

June 13, 2011
Lyttleton, New Zealand, site of February 22 earthquake (Updated June 17, 6:15 a.m. EDT) -- Flights in Australia and New Zealand are returning to normal today and are expected to continue to operate as normal over the weekend after the ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano caused six days' worth of travel disruption down under. Qantas, Virgin Australia and Jetstar are all resuming normal or near-normal schedules, with only a handful of lingering cancellations today, and Air New Zealand is adding extra services to assist in clearing the passenger backlog. (6:00 a.m. EDT) -- Travellers in Australia and New Zealand are facing cancellations and delays with flights disrupted in both countries for a second day due to an ash cloud from an erupting volcano in Chile. New Zealand has also been hit by two sizeable tremors, causing damage and power cuts in the country's second-largest city, Christchurch. Although the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano is some 7,000 miles across the Pacific from Australasia, its ash cloud has drifted sufficiently to delay and ground flights down under. Qantas cancelled all flights in and out of Melbourne yesterday, as well as services to Tasmania and New Zealand's South Island. Virgin Australia, JetStar and Tiger also cancelled flights with an estimated 20,000 travellers affected, according to New Zealand news site TVNZ. A statement on the Qantas website says that flights from Melbourne will resume later today, but that services to New Zealand remain suspended. Air New Zealand, however, has continued services, flying under and around the ash, and Emirates and Cathay Pacific have resumed flights from New Zealand today. New Zealanders are facing even further misery following two big tremors in Christchurch today, which temporarily closed the airport. The structural damage to the city was much less severe than the earthquake on 22 February of this year, which caused significant loss of life. Cruises in Australia and New Zealand do not appear to be affected by either incident at this stage, with no departures or calls scheduled in the area for the next few days. It's low season for cruising, and the ships operating in the region are either at sea or ported outside the affected areas. However, with peak cruising season beginning in the Mediterranean and Alaska, Australians and New Zealanders embarking on long-haul flights to join ships in Europe and the USA are likely to be experiencing delays and frustration. --by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor