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Flight disruptions all week as digger cuts through line

September 19, 2017 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Engineers in New Zealand are working to fix a jet fuel pipeline after a digger damaged it, leading to the cancellation or rerouting of dozens of international and domestic flights to and from Auckland over the weekend. The resultant fuel crisis could continue all this week and beyond.

A digger driver, apparently hunting for valuable kauri logs submerged in a swamp, damaged the pipeline months ago, according to the New Zealand Herald. It was only when the oil company increased pressure in the pipeline last week that the line burst, spewing oil into a peat bog.

Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said about 27 domestic and international flights were cancelled over the weekend, while others travelled via other airports to refuel.

The crisis led to a rare fuel-related advisory from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which advised Australian travellers:

“Due to shortage of aviation fuel in Auckland, oil companies are limiting the amount of fuel being supplied to airlines at Auckland Airport.

“This is impacting flights, passengers should contact their airlines, travel agents and check for latest flight information. The level of the advice has not changed. Exercise normal safety precautions in New Zealand.”

On Sunday, the oil shortage hit passengers travelling on Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia to Samoa, the Gold Coast and Melbourne, Dubai and Christchurch.

Passengers were being advised to check with Auckland Airport, Air New Zealand or the airline they were booked on for the latest cancellation information.

Air New Zealand was stopping long-haul flights in Nadi, Fiji, to refuel. The airline would take on enough fuel to reach Fiji, but not enough to fly the whole distance between Auckland and California, normally non-stop. At the weekend, this applied to NZ5 (Los Angeles to Auckland), NZ6 (Auckland to Los Angeles) and NZ8 (Auckland to San Francisco). The same pattern may well continue for the rest of this week or until pipe repairs are completed.

On Sunday, Emirates routed its daily non-stop flight from Auckland to Dubai, EK449, via Christchurch to refuel. From Monday, EK449 will temporarily operate via Melbourne to refuel.

The digger that caused the problem was apparently one of many used to dig up kauri trees from the peat soils that have preserved the wood for many thousands of years. The giant trees, toppled millennia ago, possibly by earthquakes, have beautiful timber that’s in demand in China, Australia, North America, Italy and Germany.

Written by Peter Needham

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