Chaos ensues for travellers in New Zealand as the country struggles with an extreme jet fuel shortage
Emirates forced to add stopover in Melbourne to longest direct service to Auckland
The world's second longest flight is no longer so - for the time being at least - as a severe jet fuel shortage caused chaos for travellers in New Zealand.
New Zealand is currently in the throes of an air travel crisis, after a pipeline that sends jet fuel to the airport was sliced on Thursday - reportedly by a digger.
The 168-kilometre pipeline is the main channel for jet fuel, petrol, and diesel, between the country's only oil refinery and Auckland, the country's largest airport.
Following the leak, oil companies were forced to ask the airlines to reduce their fuel consumption to 30 per cent of their normal operating level while they attempted to repair the damage.
Scores of flights, both international and domestic, have had to be cancelled in the leak's wake and thousands of travellers left stranded.
Airlines have even begun taking the unconventional step of restricting ticket sales, and halting some sales altogether.
This means Emirates has had to alter its EK449 service from Dubai to Auckland, which once held the title of world's longest flight.
Over the weekend, the flight was rerouted to Christchurch for refuelling. For the next few days, the Dubai-based carrier's daily direct service will include a stopover in Melbourne, Australia.
It's set to add about two hours to the total flight time, and passengers are not required to disembark.
“Emirates flight EK449 operating from Auckland to Dubai between 18 -24 September, will stop in Melbourne for refuelling due to the Auckland Airport fuel shortage which has affected most international airlines," a spokesman said.
"Customers holding tickets with onward connections during this time are advised to contact their local Emirates office and check the status of their flight. Connecting flights will be rebooked as required.”
The 14,200 kilometre service spans a lengthy 16 hours, and is typically served by an A380.
It was stripped of its "world's longest" crown in February this year, when Qatar started a Doha to Auckland service which stays airborne mere minutes longer.
It is not yet known how long repairs to the damaged pipeline will take, but New Zealand airlines have advised further disruptions are likely.
On Tuesday, the country's state carrier, Air New Zealand, announced it would operate flights to Wellington with only the pilots on board, in order to fill up and return to Auckland for long haul operations.
Most long haul flights departing from Auckland were already adding stopovers at Pacific or Australian airports to refuel.
"We are continuing to do everything we can to respond to this infrastructure challenge and further disruption is likely as we move through the rest of this week. We apologise to our customers for the inconvenience caused and continue to ask for their patience," Air New Zealand spokesman David Morgan said in a statement.
Media reports in the country on Tuesday reported the airline was restricting ticket sales and halting sales of some international services altogether.
A spokeswoman told Stuff that Air New Zealand had closed sales for new bookings to all long haul and Pacific Island destinations for travel through until Sunday and all trans-Tasman services for travel tomorrow and Thursday.