x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Emirates, Etihad flights on schedule despite ash cloud delays

Emirates and Etihad flights to Australia and New Zealand are on schedule, despite delays to local flights there caused by a volcanic ash cloud.

DUBAI // Emirates and Etihad airlines say they are continuing flights on schedule to Australia and New Zealand despite a volcanic ash cloud that has grounded dozens of domestic flights there.

Both UAE airlines said they were operating as normal despite numerous cancellations from Australian-based Qantas Airways and Virgin Australia on routes into and out of Sydney and other cities today.

Last week, Emirates Airline scrapped two flights between Sydney and Christchurch, in New Zealand but the route was operating normally today.

"Emirates flights to Australia and New Zealand are operating as scheduled," an Emirates spokeswoman told The National this morning.

Etihad Airways also issued a statement today. "While Etihad flights are currently operating as normal, we are monitoring the situation very closely and are in regular contact with the Australian authorities," an Etihad spokesperson said. "Safety is our highest priority, and we will not operate any flights to an airport that is considered at risk from airborne volcanic ash."

Etihad runs a total of 21 weekly flights to Sydney and Brisbane, and a daily service to Melbourne. However, it does not have a service to New Zealand.

Most international flights operated by Qantas were running, but some had to be diverted, delayed or cancelled, an airline official told Reuters.

The carrier diverted flights from Johannesburg and Singapore to Brisbane, and delayed two flights from Los Angeles. It also cancelled six flights between Australia and New Zealand, the airline said, while Sydney Airport said flights to Honolulu and Bali had also been cancelled.

Qantas also moved forward two flights to London and one to Frankfurt to get them out before 3pm local time, another spokesman told Reuters.

Qantas and Virgin Australia cancelled all flights to and from Adelaide all day today, while both airlines stopped flights to and from Canberra from around midday local time.

Virgin Australia said it was suspending all services out of Melbourne from 4pm, while Qantas cancelled flights between Perth and Melbourne.

Last week, thousands of passengers were thrown into chaos as hundreds of flights were affected.

The problem stemmed from the eruption of the volcano in Puyehue-Cordon Caulle, Chile two weeks ago.

Volcanic ash particles can be harmful to aircraft engines; they can damage the internal machinery.

For the latest information about flight times visit www.emirates.com and www.etihadairways.com

nhanif@thenational.ae