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Dense summer fog over city airport disrupts flights

February 12, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A dense curtain of fog over New Zealand’s Wellington Airport at the weekend led to many delayed and cancelled flights – stranding and frustrating passengers, who know there’s a way to fix the situation.

Wellington’s Dominion Post reported yesterday that some passengers booked to leave Wellington on Saturday were still waiting for flights about noon yesterday.

Air New Zealand added a flight from Auckland to pick up passengers stranded by the previous day’s cancellations – only for that flight also to be cancelled when another blanket of fog rolled in.

Equipment exists to allow planes to land in fog but it’s considered too expensive, as Wellington is famed for its wind and foggy days are uncommon, about six days a year.


Delayed and disrupted flights at Wellington Airport yesterday


Last month, the Dominion Post quoted Dave Reynolds, senior technical officer for the New Zealand Airline Pilots’ Association and former British Airways pilot, who said technology to let planes land in zero visibility had existed since the 1960s.

The cost of equipping airports and airlines with the systems required, plus maintenance and staff training, was considered too high, Reynolds said.

Wellington Airport is the third busiest airport in New Zealand. Over the past five years, passenger numbers have soared, passing the six million mark in 2017.

Passenger numbers were lifted in 2017 by new Jetstar, Fiji Airways and Singapore Airlines routes, increases in capacity from both Air New Zealand and Qantas and new services by Sounds Air.

Lisa Murray, communications meteorologist for New Zealand’s MetService, says Wellington Airport has on average six fogs a year “much rarer than at Christchurch (50 days per year) or Dunedin Airport (64 days per year) or Hamilton (92 days per year) – yet it is very disruptive when it does roll in off the sea and can last for hours at a time”.

Murray adds that Wellington has more foggy days in summer while for many other New Zealand airports, fogs occur in winter.

“Wellington Airport is a hub for domestic commercial air traffic, therefore even short closures have major flow-on effects for passengers and other airports around the country,” she notes.

Written by Peter Needham

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