Australia Ash Clears After Flight Halt Prompts A$2,100 Cab Ride
Flights resumed in Australia as Volcanic ash dispersed, easing disruptions that had prompted travelers to swamp hotels, take A$2,100 ($2,225) cab rides or cancel trips across the nation’s south-east.
Qantas Airways Ltd. (QAN), the nation’s biggest carrier, resumed Melbourne flights from 11 a.m. and Sydney services from 2 p.m., according to a statement on its website. New Zealand and Tasmania flights remain halted. The airline yesterday canceled at least 200 flights, affecting more than 20,000 passengers.
“It’s massively significant and we do apologize to our consumers,” Qantas Chief Executive Officer Alan Joyce told the National Press Club in Canberra. “This is unprecedented.”
Virgin Australia and Tiger Airways Holdings Ltd. (TGR) also plan to ease cuts as carriers work to clear backlogs of passengers stranded by the ash from a volcano in Chile. The cloud is disrupting operations in Australia for a second week after being blown one-and-a-half times around the world.
Flight cancellations yesterday forced some Qantas executives to drive about 290 kilometers (180 miles) to Canberra from the carrier’s Sydney head office, Olivia Wirth, a spokeswoman, said in a televised briefing in the capital. The airline’s shares rose 0.3 percent after it forecast an increase of as much as 46 percent in full-year earnings.
Aerial Capital Group Pty., which has 300 taxis and limousines, sent five silver-service cabs to Melbourne yesterday from Canberra, a journey of about 650 kilometers. The fares, negotiated with drivers, cost as much as A$2,100, Operations Manager Shane Stephens said by phone.
“I’d never had anyone who wanted us to drive them to Melbourne,” said Stephens, who has worked for the Canberra- based company for 10 years. “We are completely booked out.”
Virgin Australia, the nation’s second-biggest carrier, resumed Melbourne flights from noon, and Canberra and Sydney services from 3 p.m., according to a statement on its website. The airline canceled about 170 flights yesterday.
A full shutdown of the Sydney and Melbourne airports, the nation’s two biggest, would cost the tourism industry at least A$10 million a day, said John Lee, chief executive officer of the Tourism & Transport Forum, a lobby group representing 200 tour companies.
“There are real impacts now to the wider business community,” he said. Sydney Airport yesterday was “quite eerie” because “what is normally bustling is just idle.”
The airport handled 35.6 million passengers last year, according to its annual report.
The ash came from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic complex in southern Chile, which erupted on June 4. It last week caused flight cancellations in Australia, New Zealand and in South America. Disruptions in Australia eased over the weekend before resuming again yesterday after the ash circumnavigated the globe, according to air-traffic controller Airservices Australia.
The ash-cloud cancellations follow earthquakes in Japan and Christchurch, as well as floods in Queensland, which have also disrupted operations and demand for Australian and New Zealand carriers. Qantas last week curtailed growth plans because of a slowdown in demand. The airline said yesterday it was too early to estimate the cost impact of the ash-cloud cancellations.
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