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Chile volcano: Ash cloud over Australia forces more flight cancellations

Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger

Qantas and Virgin Australia canceled flights that were scheduled Thursday (Australia time) to New Zealand and the western Australian city of Perth as an ash cloud from a Chilean volcano continued to spread into the area and strand thousands more travelers.

The cloud has also wreaked havoc in South America. Disruptions of air travel in various parts of the world could last for months, experts say.

The Sydney Morning Herald dubbed the cloud over Perth the “plume of gloom” and explained that levels of ash as low as 15,000 feet posed a safety risk for airlines. A different ash plume on Australia’s southeast coast is disrupting flights to New Zealand, the Herald reports.

On its website, Perth Airport said the ash cloud’s low position had prompted the cancellation of at least 56 flights Wednesday by Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia and other airlines “as a precautionary measure.”

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Thursday was shaping up much the same Down Under, where it’s already Thursday.

Virgin Australia advised travelers that it has canceled its flights in and out of Perth until noon Thursday and that flights to Christchurch and Wellington in New Zealand had been canceled until morning. Budget airline Jetstar and Qantas also told customers on Facebook that flights to New Zealand would be canceled until noon and Perth flights would be canceled as well. 

In light of the ash cloud problems, airlines are waiving change fees and revising  cancellation policies. Check airline websites if you have tickets and plan to travel to, from or through any of the affected areas.

Scientists say ash from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic eruption, which began June 4, could linger in the air and disrupt flights for months, according to this  Reuters report.

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