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Qantas Resumes New Zealand Flights as Volcanic Ash Cloud Clears

Qantas Airways Ltd., Australia’s biggest carrier, resumed New Zealand service today as a volcanic-ash cloud cleared after disrupting flights for three weeks.

Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington services are operating as scheduled, the Sydney-based airline said in a statement on its website today. Virgin Australia, the nation’s second-ranked carrier, expects to resume flights after grounding planes yesterday, it said on its website.

Ash from a June 4 explosion at the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex in Southern Chile grounded hundreds of flights in Australia, New Zealand and South America on concern that flying through the plume might clog jet engines. The disruptions cost Qantas A$21 million ($22 million) as of June 20, the company said last week.

Qantas plans additional flights to Auckland from Sydney and Melbourne to clear a passenger backlog. The first flights today have already departed, spokeswoman Emma Kearns said by phone.

Qantas’ service to South Africa will fly via Perth while all other international and domestic flights are operating as scheduled, according to its website.

Virgin Australia, the operating unit of Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd., expects New Zealand services to resume later today as it coordinates flight crews scattered after the ash cloud, spokeswoman Melissa Thomson said by phone today.

Ten Virgin flights today between Australia and New Zealand were listed as canceled on the airline’s website as of 8 a.m. in Sydney today.

Air New Zealand Ltd. said it is operating its standard schedule, according to its website.

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