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