Perth Airport flights to resume after refuelling issue grounded planes, stranding thousands

By Andrea Mayes, ABC

A refuelling issue at Perth Airport that grounded domestic and international flights on Saturday morning has been resolved, the airport says.

At least 70 domestic and international flights were affected, with planes unable to land at the airport or depart.

Passengers were stranded at airports nationwide and at some international destinations, including Doha, waiting to get to Perth.

Perth Airport said a problem with load pressure in the fuel lines had caused the issue, which had since been fixed.

Airport chief executive Jason Waters said the system had now been repaired and tested.

Waters apologised to impacted travellers and said the airport would be working with airlines to resume normal operations as soon as possible.

“The effects will be felt throughout today but we’d like to think that within a short period of time after that we’ll get back to normal flights,” he said.

“I’d like to think that by this evening and into tomorrow we’ll have it dealt with but given we’re talking about long haul flights and the extent of the backlog, it might take some time.”

It is understood some flights had been delayed since Friday night, leaving thousands of passengers stranded.

Passengers wait at Perth Airport, where all flights have been cancelled due to a refuelling problem, on 1 June 2024.

The airport called in external experts, including engineers and technicians, to identify and repair the problem.

“As of just recently, I can inform you that we are back to normal refuelling and obviously very keen to see a return to normal operation,” Waters said.

“This has had a significant impact on flights overnight.

“From Perth airport’s perspective we’re very apologetic and sympathetic to impacted travellers.

“We’re going to work very hard with our airlines here to ensure we get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

Waters said the problem appeared to be the result of “air sucked into the distribution system”.

No compensation for passengers, says Virgin

Virgin Airlines apologised to customers in a statement handed to passengers at Perth Airport, but said it was not required by law to provide compensation “for delays or cancellations outside of our control”.

“We recommend you contact your travel insurance provider to assist you with any unforeseen expenses,” the statement said.

Perth man Darshan Patel, who had had been planning to go to Hobart on Saturday for his wife’s birthday until their flight was cancelled, said the airline’s response was not good enough.

The queue for information about flights at Perth Airport stretched a long way, on 1 June 2024.

He wants compensation for his flights and other non-refundable bookings, such as accommodation.

“We’re really not happy because we’ve been planning for this holiday for quite a long time,” Patel said.

“Somebody is responsible for what is happening and there should be something done to help the passengers.

“We’ve booked everything well ahead, now it’s getting cancelled. All our bookings are non-refundable.

“It’s just passengers who are suffering.”

Flights diverted to regional airports

At least four flights were diverted to regional airports including a Philippines Airlines flight from Manila to Perth that landed in Geraldton earlier on Saturday.

Geraldton is about 420km north of Perth.

A Geraldton Airport spokesperson said the small regional airport could only assist with a handful of flights due to having limited fuel supply themselves.

Passengers on the Philippines flight were not allowed to disembark and a biosecurity representative was on site.

City of Geraldton chief executive Ross McKim said Geraldton Airport was in danger of running out of fuel after the Philippines flight took a quarter of the airport’s fuel capacity.

“The [airport’s] refuelling isn’t booked until mid-next week so we’re going to have to work out how to get some up sooner than that,” he said.

Qantas flight QFA10 from London to Perth was diverted to Karratha, in the state’s far north.

Other flights were diverted to Kalgoorlie, about 600km east of Perth.

Passenger sat on plane for hours

Perth man Campbell Grieves and Swiss exchange student Zander Goosen arrived at the airport early to catch a flight to Sydney.

“We were taking (Zander) to see all the classic Aussie things in Sydney … the bridge, the Opera House,” Grieves said.

“We get here at about 6am and we get on the plane, boarded all right, then we sat there in the little economy seat for two hours.

“The captain was ringing every in hour saying ‘dunno where the fuel is,’ eventually we get kicked off the plane and the flight is cancelled.”

Grieves said he had been told the earliest he and Goosen could travel to Sydney was Monday.

Perth resident Stephen Herbert is stranded in Doha, where he was meant to stop briefly en route from London to Perth on Qatar Airlines.

“We have been in a line with other returning Aussies for nearly four hours,” he said.

“No official from Qatar Airlines has given us any updates and we are relying on social media.

“[There are] lots of tired and disgruntled people wanting answers.”

He was scathing of Perth Airport over the delays.

“There’s no way you can call Perth an international airport after this debacle. Imagine if this happened at Heathrow?” he said.

Another passenger in Doha, Rae de Wet, told the ABC a delay of more than 24 hours was expected before they could get back to Perth, but little information had been provided.

She said she had already been in transit for more than 30 hours since leaving South Africa.

“It is incomprehensible that an international airport could face an issue of this nature, embarrassing really especially on an international scale,” she said.

At Sydney Airport, Perth man Steven Dipane said his son had been at a baseball tournament in Lismore and he was trying to head home.

“They’re going to book us in to a room for the night, and then get us on a plane to Melbourne tomorrow and then to Perth.

“It just delays it. I would have liked to be home tonight.”

Dieter Spurgeon’s family is currently in Darwin after their flight home from a family holiday to Perth was delayed over 36 hours.

“We’ve contacted both Qantas and Perth airport and neither seem willing to reimburse us for an extra night’s stay in Darwin,” he said.

He said communication by both the airport and airline had been “horrendous”.

This story was first published by ABC.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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