Cancellations And Delays Ease In Wake Of Tonga Crisis

Just 48 hours on from what is now being described as the largest volcanic explosion since Krakatoa 30 years ago, flights are beginning to resume while aid is on route to Tonga. Fiji Airways have rescheduled numerous cancelled flights and promise to keep people moving as the volcanic ash cloud begins to subside.

Cancellations And Delays Ease In Wake Of Tonga Crisis
Japanese weather satellite, Himawari-8, captured the scale of the ash cloud produced by Saturday’s eruption. © NICT/AP

Fiji Airways resumes most flights to and from Fiji 48 hours after Tonga blast

Fiji Airways have begun rescheduling flights after several cancellations left the island virtually cut off after volcanic ash from Tonga polluted flight routes. The airline released a statement earlier today, as well as a new travel advisory announcing flights from 2 PM local time. The airline said:

Fiji Airways and Fiji Link will operate the following flights this afternoon to accommodate guests whose flights were cancelled or delayed on January 16 and this morning due to potentially hazardous flight operating conditions as a result of the ash cloud from the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption.

The pacific based airline went on to say that customers will receive an updated ticket via email and will be notified of any further changes should they occur. For now, the revised international flight schedule is as follows:

  • FJ1910 – Sydney to Nadi – Departing at 2:00 PM (supplementary flight for cancelled flights from January 16)
  • FJ915 – Nadi to Sydney – Departing at 3:30 PM
  • FJ916 – Sydney to Nadi – Departing at 8:40 PM
  • FJ931 – Nadi to Melbourne – Departing at 5:40 PM
  • FJ930 – Melbourne to Nadi – Departing at 11:55 PM
  • FJ1934 – Melbourne to Nadi – Departing at 11:00 PM (supplementary flight for cancelled flight from January 16)
  • FJ810 – Nadi to Los Angeles – Departing at 9:40 PM
  • FJ873 – San Francisco to Nadi – Departing at 10:00 PM
  • FJ813 – Los Angeles to Nadi – Departing at 10:45 PM

Fiji Airways has thanked passengers for supporting the airline during this unprecedented event.

We would like to thank all our guests for their understanding and reiterate that the safety of our guests and crew is of paramount importance.

Cancellations And Delays Ease In Wake Of Tonga Crisis
Fiji Airways gradually resume scheduled flights after several cancellations this weekend. © Fiji Airways

Aid missions thwarted as Australia and New Zealand assess damage

Australia and New Zealand have successfully sent surveillance flights on Monday 17th in the general direction of Tonga with the aim to assess the extent of the damage caused to the south pacific islands. Australia’s Minister for the Pacific Zed Seselja revealed that it’s believed that there are no significant amount of casualties as a result of the eruption and tsunami. However, Mr Seselja confirmed that the south pacific island took a beating when the tsunami. Australian police have reportedly visited beaches on the island and described the damage as “houses thrown around”. However, in good spirits, he added that the airport looked in good condition despite the roads and infrastructure showing significant damage.

Although the two neighbouring nations are ready to send aid Tonga’s way, Covid19 continues to be a thorn in the world’s foot by posing an added risk to the pacific islanders. As Tonga is currently considered covid free, officials have stated that they would like to assess the damage caused first before jumping towards aid. New variants and aid are primarily originating from covid-ridden countries, which could bring Covid19 back to the island and with that, the risk more lives could be lost.

“We don’t want to bring in another wave – a tsunami of COVID-19,” said Tonga’s deputy head of mission in Australia, Curtis Tu’ihalangingie, in a call earlier today to Reuters. Tu’ihalangingie also said that Tonga diplomats were concerned by various fundraising efforts popping up in support of Tonga and urged the public to wait until a disaster relief fund is organised.

Cancellations And Delays Ease In Wake Of Tonga Crisis
Pictured: An Orion aircraft is prepped and ready to head out to Tonga at a base in Aukland, New Zealand © NZDF/AP

Communications with the south pacific nation remain extremely limited. The outer-lying islands rely on a single underwater communications cable to stay connected to the rest of the world. The company that owns and runs this cable said that it’s likely the eruption severed the cable, meaning communication with Tonga will be limited for weeks to come as repairs are carried out.

Of the brief communications received from Tonga, reports say a woman on Tonga’s largest was washed out to sea by the tsunami wave. New Zealand state broadcaster TVNZ reports that the woman, Angela Glover, went missing after being washed away while getting her dogs from outside. Her husband, James, was able to cling to a tree when the wave hit. This isn’t the only incident where a rogue tsunami wave pulled civilians out to sea. Two people drowned after being washed out to sea off a beach in Northern Peru, in the Lambayeque region, Peru’s National Institute of Civil Defence said in a statement. Concerns over the health of the Tongan people are starting to rise with reports that volcanic ash has contaminated the water and food supplies.

Our thoughts are with those affected. For all the latest on this breaking story and for all of today’s major aviation news, follow us on Twitter @thetravelradar
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Jonathan Green
Jonathan Green
Contributing Reporter - Jonathan is a creative professional of international acclaim with a strong background in aviation journalism, fashion photography and travel writing. Jonathan writes about commercial aviation, travel and tourism, aerospace engineering, and sustainability. With extensive industry knowledge and connections, Jonathan works closely with tech start-ups and established global brands and agencies in Australia and worldwide.


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