Dozens of flights to and from Auckland, New Zealand have been cancelled over the past fortnight. Many long-haul flights departing Auckland have also been forced to make costly diversions en-route. The cause of the chaos is a severe shortage of fuel at Auckland Airport that could last up to two weeks.

Until the fuel supply is restored, Auckland Airport has asked airlines to carry enough fuel on arriving flights to also cover the return journey. Airlines operating New Zealand domestic flights are doing exactly this. But for many international flights, this is simply not feasible.

Trans-Tasman flights on multiple airlines have been cancelled this week. Meanwhile, Qantas has upgraded several Sydney-Auckland flights from Boeing 737s to widebody Airbus A330s, which are capable of flying across the Tasman and back on a single tank of fuel.

Qantas even flew a Boeing 747 full of fuel to Auckland last Wednesday to top up the Qantas and Jetstar fleet stuck in Auckland.

Looks like QF is sending VH-OEG over tonight as QF6011 operating as a tanker

Many long-haul flights departing from Auckland have been forced to make extra stops en-route. Emirates’ non-stop Auckland-Dubai flight is temporarily operating via Christchurch. Air China, Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines flights from Auckland are stopping in Australia. Many Air New Zealand flights to the USA are stopping in Fiji for extra fuel. Meanwhile, LATAM Airlines’ Auckland-Santiago flight is forced to make a significant detour via Tahiti.

My BNE-AKL-LAX flight yesterday had an stop in NAN to fill up. Added an extra 3 hours or so to the already long trip

The shortage of fuel comes after Auckland’s only fuel supply pipeline was accidentally ruptured. The damage occurred months ago, but the pipeline finely gave way on Thursday, 14 September. This single pipeline accounts for 70% of Auckland Airport’s fuel supply, so the impact was felt almost immediately. Dozens of flights had to be cancelled from Saturday 16 September.

While unusual, a situation like this is not unprecedented. A similar problem occurred last year at Melbourne Airport.

It is hoped that the fuel supply will be restored before New Zealand school holidays begin next week.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]