American travellers John Ibbetson and Nick Giuffre at Ballina Airport after the ash cloud closed airspace on the eastern seaboard.
American travellers John Ibbetson and Nick Giuffre at Ballina Airport after the ash cloud closed airspace on the eastern seaboard. Jay Cronan

Ash cloud shuts down airports

HUNDREDS of passengers had their travel plans thrown into chaos as Ballina airport was shut down yesterday following the return of a volcanic ash plume into Australian airspace.

All jet flights in and out of Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide were cancelled throughout the afternoon as the eastern seaboard airspace was closed down.

Americans Nick Giuffre and John Ibbetson, from Philadelphia, are becoming used to disruption.

After a semester studying at Sydney University, the two friends hired a campervan and headed north for a holiday – but got caught in the floods.

“The Pacific Highway was closed so we had to take a detour which took us 17 hours' driving and one night's stopover to get here,” he said.

“We didn't want to risk the highway being closed this week, so we booked a flight back.”

With their flight cancelled, and the chance they wouldn't get another one until Friday, the pair declined a free night at the Ram-ada and booked bus tickets back to Sydney, as they are due to fly home on Sunday.

Ballina Airport manager Neil Weatherson said passengers and staff were coping with the cancellations, but described it as strange to have no activity on such a beautiful day.

Chile's Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano began erupting June 4 and the ash cloud is tipped to move to the north-east over the next few days.



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