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Thursday
Jun232011

Australia, NZ airlines estimate ash costs; Fyfe, Joyce have it out

The Sydney Morning Herald estimated today that the June 4 eruption of the volcano in the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle Volcanic Complex in the Chilean Andes mountain range has cost "the local [airline] industry some $30 million" AUD (22.2 million EUR; 19.7 million GBP; 38.8 million NZD; 31.4 million USD).  Qantas Airways and its subsidiary QantasLink lost 21 million AUD according to estimates from the Herald this morning.

Jetstar CEO Bruce Buchanan indicated to the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that Jetstar and Qantas erred on the side of caution when it came to the decision on when to restart a regular flying schedule.  To justify such conservative decision making, Buchanan pointed to the absence in Australia, of the kinds of technology that enabled European-based carriers "to measure the density of the ash," when faced with a similar problem during the spring of last year.  Today, Qantas and Jetstar have cancelled all flights into and out of New Zealand, according to The Age, a Melbourne-based broadsheet daily newspaper.

The Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull began erupting in March of 2010, and grounded air traffic in Europe for several days.  In its wake, a novel on-board ash detection system was debuted by the British budget airline EasyJet, but British scientific models of future ash movement wound up being roundly criticized, mostly by U.K.-based and Ireland-based airlines, for themselves being too conservative.

Meanwhile, a trans-Tasman tiff has erupted over an e-mail from Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, to the millions of Qantas frequent fliers.  The e-mail explained the Australian national airline's decision to ground planes for as long as it did.  Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe got hold of this e-mail, and took it as implying that Air New Zealand (and other carriers such as Virgin Australia) acted recklessly by not grounding planes.  In a response, Fyfe pointed out Joyce's willingness to put ticketed Qantas customers onto substitute flights operated by Air New Zealand, "which seems like a strange thing to do for your customers if you have concerns about the safety of the airspace."  As of this posting, Joyce has not responded.

Fyfe is also hitting back against rumors out of Oz that Air New Zealand has grounded as many as six of its planes, supposedly damaged by ash, calling the rumors "malicious."  Air New Zealand instructed its pilots to detour around the ash (rather than ground its planes), after the ash swept down toward Antarctica, up across the South Pacific, and into Middle Earth airspace several days ago.

related stories

Volcanic ash wanders across Pacfic; snarls NZ, Australia air traffic (June 12, 2011)

U.K.-based easyJet will debut a new ash detector (June 5, 2010)

Airlines now criticizing British models of predicted ash movement (May 17, 2010)

Volcanoes in Iceland could affect aviation for decades (May 17, 2010)

The spread of volcanic ash from Eyjafjallajökull over time (May 4, 2010)

original stories

Fyfe: Air NZ's ash-damaged planes 'malicious rumors' (New Zealand Herald)

Airlines count flight interruptions costs (Sydney Morning Herald)

Some Australia flights resume, others nixed by ash (Yahoo News)

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