Air­port de­lays for two weeks as fuel-line cut dis­rupts flights

The Press - - News - JARRED WIL­LIAMSON and TOM PULLAR-STRECKER

Trav­ellers with­out in­sur­ance could be left out of pocket by a fuel short­age at Auck­land air­port that is ex­pected to dis­rupt peo­ple’s travel plans for up to a fort­night.

Air New Zealand spokes­woman Kelly Kil­gour said it would re­fund all fares for flights that were can­celled be­cause of a cut to an Auck­land pipe­line op­er­ated by Re­fin­ing New Zealand that sup­plies jet fuel to the air­port.

But ‘‘as this sit­u­a­tion is out­side of Air New Zealand’s con­trol’’, cus­tomers would need to con­tact their in­surer for as­sis­tance ‘‘with any ac­com­mo­da­tion or out of pocket ex­penses in­curred’’, she said.

Air NZ was cur­rently as­sess­ing the fi­nan­cial im­pact of the fuel-line cut on its own busi­ness, she said. Other air­lines are also af­fected.

The jet fuel pipe­line leak, which has al­ready led to the can­cel­la­tion of more than 20 flights out of Auck­land air­port, could take up to two weeks to fix, Re­fin­ing NZ has warned.

The 168 kilo­me­tre pipe­line – which car­ries jet fuel, petrol and diesel di­rectly from the oil re­fin­ery at Mars­den Point in North­land to tanks in Wiri, south Auck­land – has been out of ac­tion since Thurs­day af­ter it was dam­aged, ap­par­ently by a dig­ger.

Auck­land air­port spokesman Si­mon Lam­bourne con­firmed oil com­pa­nies were lim­it­ing the amount of fuel sup­plies to air­lines.

Re­fin­ing NZ spokesman Greg McNeill es­ti­mated the pipe­line would take be­tween 10 and 14 days to fix.

Board of Air­line Rep­re­sen­ta­tives New Zealand ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Justin Tighe-Um­bers said that its 28 mem­bers were look­ing at car­ry­ing out ex­tra re­fu­elling stops out­side New Zealand.

Some might also fly larger air­craft to Auck­land that could carry more fuel with them.

Air New Zealand said the air­line was ‘‘work­ing through the implications for air­craft oper­a­tions’’ in the com­ing days.

Some long-haul flights to and from Asian and North Amer­i­can coun­tries would stop to re­fuel at Aus­tralian and Pa­cific air­ports.

But to ‘‘con­sol­i­date pas­sen­ger loads’’, the air­line would can­cel some do­mes­tic and Aus­tralian ser­vices, it said.

Mean­while, do­mes­tic flights from Welling­ton and Christchurch would be filled to their max­i­mum lim­its to ease the load in Auck­land.

Jet­star spokes­woman Kate Mil­lar said it was not yet known how many of the air­line’s flights would be af­fected.

It was look­ing at pos­si­ble so­lu­tions, in­clud­ing up­grad­ing trans-Tas­man Qan­tas flights from Boe­ing 737s to Air­bus A330s, which have 100 ex­tra seats, she said.

Mo­bil Oil New Zealand’s man­ager Andrew McNaught said fuel com­pa­nies were try­ing to man­age the im­pact of the tem­po­rary shut­down. ‘‘The in­dus­try is li­ais­ing with Auck­land Air­port to care­fully man­age sup­plies and min­imise any dis­rup­tion to flight oper­a­tions due to the pipe­line re­pairs.’’

He said fuel com­pa­nies were work­ing with air­lines to keep them up­dated and ‘‘sup­port­ing their ef­forts to min­imise any dis­rup­tions to flight oper­a­tions’’.

That would in­clude flights car­ry­ing more fuel in or­der to en­able re­turn flights with­out re­fu­elling, re­fu­elling at other air­ports, and stop­ping to fuel at other air­ports on the way to and from Auck­land, McNaught said.

Al­ter­na­tive sup­ply ar­range­ments were be­ing made for road fu­els, he said. ‘‘This in­cludes trans­port­ing more fuel from the re­fin­ery via road-tankers, di­vert­ing ad­di­tional loads to Auck­land where pos­si­ble, and work­ing with cus­tomers to care­fully man­age their sup­ply re­quire­ments.’’

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