Qantas moves to stem passengers stuck in airports, freezes outbound flights check ins


Qantas passengers hoping to travel to Europe via Asia won’t be permitted to check in for the outbound flights from Australia, as the airline moved to stem passengers stuck in transit ports due to the volcanic ash cloud blanketing Europe.

And as losses mount, European regulators are facing a backlash from the aviation industry over their decision to close the airspace, facing criticisms it did so without reliable atmospheric measurements and without consultation with airlines.

The knock-on effects of the ash plume from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano were felt on schedules here: Qantas cancelled another 12 flights scheduled across today and tomorrow (a mix of inbound and outbound), bringing the tally to 71 cancellations.

The disruption was costing the airline $1.5 million a day, spokesman David Epstein said.

Qantas could not say when its European flights would resume, directing travellers to its website for updates.

The move to restrict outbound travellers came as accommodation in the transit hubs of Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok was described as ”extremely limited”.

As many as 12,500 Qantas passengers are stuck, part of an estimated 60,000 Australians stranded abroad.

The airline is advising affected customers of alternatives, including refunds and flights home at no cost, as well as putting customers up in hotel rooms.

For travellers, there might be some encouraging news on the insurance front.

The chief executive of the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, Jayson Westbury, said while insurance policies differed, his discussions with the travel insurance industry left him with the impression that insurers would not walk away from travel claims on the ”act of God” exclusion clauses, provided travellers had a policy in place before the volcano erupted.

Insurance company Mondial Assistance said it was treating the eruption disruption as a ”natural disaster” – giving travellers coverage under its policies – and it had taken 1000 inquiries.