Thousands of air passengers stranded in New Zealand after fuel pipeline bursts

Thousands of air passengers are stranded in New Zealand after a burst oil pipeline caused a jet fuel shortage, leading to dozens of flight cancellations.

The pipeline, which is Auckland Airport’s only supplier of jet fuel, was damaged by a digger, according to local media.

Around 2,000 Air New Zealand passengers will be affected by flight cancellations on Monday, the airline predicted. In addition, some long-haul flights will be refueling at Australian and Pacific airports. The fuel shortage means that all airlines only have access to 30 percent of normal fuel usage, Air New Zealand said.

“We are continuing to do everything we can to respond to this infrastructure challenge, and further disruption is likely as we move through the rest of this week,” Air New Zealand Chief Operations Integrity and Standards Officer Captain David Morgan said in a statement.

The fuel shortage resulted in the cancellation of approximately 27 domestic and international flights over the weekend, said Auckland Airport. The airport is working closely with airlines to monitor the impact of the temporary disruption, said Adrian Littlewood, chief executive for Auckland Airport.

“We will have additional staff in the terminals supporting passengers and addressing any questions or concerns they may have,” he said in a statement. “We strongly recommend that any passengers travelling over the coming days plan ahead and check with their airline for the latest information.”

The pipeline is operated by Refining NZ, which said it will take days for the pipeline to be repaired due to safety precautions. It expects to have the pipeline working again between Sunday, Sept. 24, and Tuesday, Sept. 26. After that, it will take an additional 30 hours before the fuel will be ready for use and for it to reach the airport.

“We need to be absolutely clear that it is safe to work in before we can start welding in the new section of pipe,” Refining NZ said in a statement.

“The second point is that the work site is in a boggy, peaty area, made even more challenging to work in by the recent heavy rains,” the company said. “Rest assured that we are working as quickly as humanly possible to fix the pipe in order to minimize the disruption we are so painfully conscious of.”

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