Qantas 747-400. Photo: Courtesy, Qantas.

Airline operations in Australia and New Zealand were thrown into chaos by ash from Chile’s Puyehue-Cordon Caulle Volcano.

Qantas and Jetstar canceled all operations from Melbourne, Tasmania and to and within New Zealand on Sunday and Monday, while other airlines limited operations in the affected areas. The ash cloud now stretches almost around the globe in the roaring forties latitudes and is located at altitude of between 6,000 m. and 10,600 m. (19,680 ft. - 32,800 ft.). It temporarily grounded air service to, from and within Argentina last week (ATW Daily News, June 8).

In contrast to the Australian airlines, Air New Zealand and most international airlines said they would continue operating normally, flying either above or below the cloud or flying longer routes to avoid it where required. Puyehue began erupting June 4, with the initial ash plume reaching above 15,240 m.

More dense ash areas to the south and west are expected to affect airline operations in Australia over the next week. New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority are monitoring the cloud in conjunction with both countries' volcanic ash centers and weather bureaus.

Airservices Australia and New Zealand’s Airways are also involved, liaising with airlines to develop new flight routes around the cloud. Decisions on whether or not flights will operate are being made by individual airlines and operators, Airservices said. “The airlines will make decisions on how flights operate based on a careful assessment of all the information,” a spokesperson explained.