Australia’s major airports are facing up to two days of flight disruptions as the ash cloud from a volcano in Chile drifts around the world for a second time.
Qantas and Virgin have cancelled all flights into and out of Sydney and Melbourne airports due to the ash cloud over southern Australia. Adelaide airport has been shut and Canberra flights are also affected.
Thousands of passengers are facing delays, with up to 48 hours of air traffic disruptions expected as the ash cloud from Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano again passes over the south of Australia.
Last week, 100,000 passengers and 700 flights were affected by the ash plume as it passed through Australian and New Zealand airspace.
Some airlines decided to fly below the ash cloud last week, but this time they have been advised against it, the BBC reports.
International flights inbound to Sydney have been diverted to Brisbane, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tiger Airways have all announced mass flight cancellations. Virgin's domestic cancellations alone will affect 170 flights — an estimated 120,000 passengers.
"When you take out major centers like Sydney and Melbourne, the knock-on effects of that are huge, and that's unfortunate, but safety has to come first,” Civil Aviation Safety Authority spokesman Peter Gibson told the BBC.
"When it's safe to go flying, the airlines will go back, but not until then," he said.
The ash cloud is unlikely to return a third time, Andrew Tupper, head of Australia’s Volcanic Ash Advisory Center, told The West Australian.
The eruption of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in the Chilean Andes Mountains began on June 4, and has caused levels of flight disruption not seen since Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano paralyzed air travel in Europe in 2010.