Airport backlog almost cleared as fog lifts in capital
As the dense cloak of fog blanketing Wellington Airport lifted, airlines spent yesterday scrambling to get thousands of affected passengers to their destinations.
With most of the backlog cleared by late evening, airport spokesman Greg Thomas said its ‘‘operations should be back to normal’’ today.
Air New Zealand organised extra flights, including a Boeing 777 brought in from Auckland, while a spokeswoman for the Kiwi carrier said its ‘‘balance would be accommodated by Thursday evening’’.
Jetstar confirmed about 75 per cent of its affected travellers would reach their journey’s end by late yesterday, with the last stranded passengers heading home early today.
Two Qantas passengers – quadriplegic Australian man Paul McKenzie and wife Jess – were stuck in the capital for another night with their baby daughter as the Australian airline could not fly them home until tomorrow.
A spokesman for Qantas said all other affected travellers on both sides of the Tasman were ‘‘accounted for’’.
Among the worst-affected passengers were Nelson residents Fay and Wayne Lloyd, who had been stranded in Wellington since Tuesday night.
The pair were originally due to fly from Melbourne to Christchurch before catching another plane home to Nelson, but their Australian flight was diverted to Wellington. They have been in the capital since.
‘‘It’s just crazy, because there’s so much you want to do. You want to get home and get sorted. I was meant to be at work yesterday. You can’t really leave the airport, because you keep getting flights cancelled,’’ Fay said.
After numerous delays, the Air New Zealand passengers re-booked on a Sounds Air flight to get home last night. ‘‘I’m just over it,’’ Fay added.
Wayne conceded the fog was an unwelcome interruption for many. ‘‘It’s not the staff’s fault. I mean, they are under pressure. They’re pleasant but they really can’t help you. There’s just so many people.’’
The couple estimated the delays had cost them about $700 in meals, accommodation, taxis and cattery bills.
While the Lloyds were fortunate enough to get accommodation near Wellington Airport, retired couple Alan and Bronwyn Don were not so lucky – being forced to hunker down in the terminal overnight on Wednesday.
‘‘It was a very relaxed atmosphere. Everything is lovely and clean and beautiful. There’s still toilet paper in the toilets, they’re clean,’’ Bronwyn said.
‘‘The staff brought around water and, later in the night, they brought around some blankets.’’
While the Dons were grateful to be given an area to lie down, they said it was far from a peaceful night’s sleep.
‘‘The lights were left on quite bright all night and there was music playing and my little comment is that, at 3am, you don’t want rap music,’’ she said.
Air travellers trying to get in and out of Palmerston North also had their plans disrupted by fog yesterday morning, but flights returned to schedule in the afternoon.