* Australia's Qantas resumes flights
* Chilean volcano's ash cloud drifts 6,000 miles
* Flights hit in New Zealand, Australia and Argentina
* Ash cloud drifts higher, allowing more flying space
(Adds with new flight detail, quotes, changes headline)
By Gyles Beckford
WELLINGTON, June 13 A cloud of ash from an
erupting volcano in Chile drifted higher over New Zealand and
Australia on Monday, easing the threat to commercial aircraf,
after scores of flights had been cancelled over the past two
days, grounding thousands of travelers.
Australia's national carrier Qantas Airways Ltd
resumed flights in and out of the southern city of Melbourne,
but was still not flying to or from New Zealand or within the
Flights between the two countries and some domestic routes
in both had been affected by the cloud, which has traveled some
10,000 km (6,000 miles) across the Atlantic and Indian oceans,
settling over their southern air space.
New Zealand's Civil Aviation Authority said the cloud had
moved higher with the base at around 27,000 feet (8,200 metres)
from the previous 20,000-foot level.
"That gives the airlines a bit more flexibility on
operations, but it is completely their decision on whether they
fly," spokesman Bill Sommer told Reuters.
Air New Zealand kept in the air by rerouting
flights and flying at lower altitudes to avoid the ash, but was
monitoring developments closely.
"We will not fly through ash and are constantly taking
guidance from CAA...to ensure we can continue to carry
passengers only where safe routes and altitudes are available,"
said Air NZ chief pilot David Morgan.
Air NZ flights had been operating at around 18,000 feet
although it meant fuel consumption was up around 10 percent.
Virgin Australia , which had cancelled services on
Sunday, resumed flights on Monday.
The volcano in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle chain in Chile has
been erupting for the past week, throwing South American air
travel into chaos as it spews ash high into the atmosphere.
DISRUPTION IN CHILE, ARGENTINA
In neighboring Argentina, where the ash has closed roads and
blanketed Patagonian grazing pastures and a ski resort,
state-run Aerolineas Argentinas said it had cancelled local and
international flights again late on Sunday.
Chile's LAN halted services to and from
Buenos Aires, saying it was "constantly monitoring the weather
An estimated 60,000 travellers, mostly in Australia, had
been affected, as around 200 flights were cancelled.
Despite the disruptions, airports in both countries reported
little turmoil at terminals on Monday, with many affected
passengers abandoning their travel plans for now.
The fine ash particles, which pose a danger to aircraft
bodies and engines, were carried east by the prevailing winds to
sit between 20,000 and 35,000 feet across southern parts of
Australia and New Zealand.
Air travel in northern Europe and Britain was disrupted last
month after Iceland's most active volcano at Grimsvotn sent a
thick plume of ash and smoke as high as 25 km.
Last April, an eruption of another Icelandic volcano,
Eyjafjallajokull, caused worldwide aviation chaos with 100,000
cancelled flights, affecting an estimated 10 million people at a
cost of $1.7 billion.
This was worse than the Chile disruption because it spread
ash throughout the air column, from ground level to the upper
(Additional reporting by Chris McCall in Sydney and Karina
Grazina in Buenos Aires; Editing by Ron Popeski)