22 Nov 2023

Low visibility at Wellington Airport: Clear weather eases flight frustrations

1:01 pm on 22 November 2023
No fog is sight at Wellington Airport following days of cancellations due to visibility issues. 22 November 2023.

No fog in sight in Wellington, as of 7am on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied / Tom Collier

It is clear skies for Wellington after low cloud in the capital caused mass flight cancellations on Tuesday.

Hundreds of people were left queuing at Wellington and Auckland airports in an attempt to rebook flights.

Wellington Airport said the total number of flights cancelled on Tuesday was around 130 and it had provided bedding for about 35 people who had to stay overnight in the terminal.

It yesterday said 6000 passengers had been affected by the cancellations.

Hundreds of people queue at Wellington Airport ahead of travel disruptions to rebook their flights after more than 50 flights in and out of the capita were cancelled due to low lying cloud.

The scene at Wellington Airport on Tuesday. Photo: RNZ / Ashleigh McCaull

There would be some flow-on disruptions over the coming days, the airport said, and some cancellations were still in effect because aircraft had not been able to arrive in the capital on Tuesday to be ready for flights today.

Air New Zealand is warning some passengers will have to wait until Saturday to fly as there is a very limited number of seats available for the rest of the week.

One woman at Wellington Airport told RNZ she had been trying to get to Timaru since Sunday and has had four flights cancelled.

Passengers stranded in Auckland have been told there is virtually no accommodation in the city.

On Wednesday, Air New Zealand chief flight operations and safety officer captain David Morgan told Morning Report the airline was working hard to get as many customers to where they needed to be over the next few days.

It was hoped much of the backlog would be cleared today but it would take at least three or four days for everyone to reach their destinations.

Morgan said flying was always weather dependent and "every now and again" such issues were seen in Wellington.

Upgrades to the airport's landing system were underway and it was "unfortunate" that a landing strip was not available and contributed to the disruptions.

That work was expected to be completed by 10 December, he said.

There was also GPS technology that aircraft could use when flying in such conditions but the weather got so bad that even those approaches could not be completed safely, he said.

Morgan said it was important passengers kept an eye on information from the airline they were flying with to keep up to date on flight information - and to have travel insurance so they were covered if weather meant planes could not fly.

Wellington Airport's departure board on 22 November 2023.

The departure board at Wellington Airport on Wednesday morning. Photo: RNZ / Krystal Gibbens

He said there could be other "challenges" today - with fog and thunderstorms expected later in Dunedin, Invercargiil and Hamilton.

Mist was also forecast for Hokitika, he said.

MetService meteorologist Mmathapelo Makgabutlane told Morning Report it was a "beautiful clear morning in Wellington".

The low cloud was sitting out in the Cook Strait and only a "small possibility" of a southerly wind would push it back in.

The weather that caused the flight disruptions on Tuesday was low cloud, causing misty conditions, Makgabutlane said.

It was not helped by drizzle which caused a further reduction in visibility.

There was some low cloud hanging around other parts of the country but overall, it was a "better situation than we have seen in the last few days".

Makgabutlane said a "polar blast" would affect temperatures towards the end of the working week with the South Island baring the brunt - but the North Island affected too.

The eastern South Island would experience some temperatures in the high 20s on Thursday, before dipping to a maximum of just 13 on Friday.

The North Island would also see colder temperatures on Saturday, she said.

It would be a "goodbye" to winter before heading into summer.