Flights disrupted as Auckland airport faces fuel shortage crisis

New Zealand Energy Minister Judith Collins said repair works could take up to 10 days. Source: ChameleonsEye/Shutterstock

DOZENS of flights were canceled at New Zealand’s Auckland Airport over the weekend, leaving hundreds of travelers stranded as the city faces an “embarrassing” jet fuel shortage.

Local reports said 27 domestic and international flights were canceled as a result of the shortage caused by a burst pipeline from Mardsen Point, situated 140km from Auckland.

The Auckland Airport website said five flights from Auckland to Melbourne Australia have been rescheduled with three cancelled on Monday, news.com.au reported.

The burst pipeline was caused by digging works last week to extract ancient kauri swamp logs from Ruakaka, about 130km from Auckland, which hit a pipeline belonging to Wiri Oil Services Limited.

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New Zealand Energy Minister Judith Collins was quoted as saying that it could take up to 10 days for repair works to be completed, adding the damage would cost “millions and millions of dollars” to the Auckland economy.

“On Thursday afternoon we got a note that there was a drop in the pressure in the pipeline … and there was not (an) anticipated effect for Auckland,” she said.

Airport authorities have advised airlines flying in and out of the city to carry enough fuel for their return journey, instead of refuelling in Auckland.

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According to the New Zealand Herald, tourism companies have been fielding calls from worried travelers over the flight disruptions.

Brent Thomas, commercial director of House of Travel said the company has been receiving calls from concerned clients.

“It’s an unusual situation – I’ve never seen anything like it in my time in the industry,” he was quoted as saying.

“We have got the school holidays in two weeks time, hopefully it’s fixed by then.”

He said travel insurance would typically cover a ”reasonable” cost of disruption from an event such as the fuel problem but every case was different.

On Sunday, the mood of travellers ranged from bemused to angry as they received varying degrees of help from their airlines. Some passengers were affected by unplanned refuelling stop-offs at Sydney or Christchurch, leaving many likely to have missed connecting flights elsewhere.

Other passengers were left stranded, having to wait days for their next flight, with little or no accommodation or transport help.

Air New Zealand spokeswoman Kelly Kilgour told stuff.co.nz that the airline would refund all fares for flights cancelled due to the burst pipeline.

She said “as this situation is outside of Air New Zealand’s control”, travellers should contact their insurer for assistance for any “accommodation or out of pocket expenses incurred”.