Argentina flights disrupted by ash cloud from Chilean volcano

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Flights in Argentina are being disrupted by an ash cloud caused by the eruption of a volcano in Chile.

Aerolineas Argentinas, its domestic subsidiary Austral and Lan Argentina have temporarily cancelled all domestic flights to the southern part of the country after the Chilean Puyehue volcano erupted on 4 June, sending a rapidly spreading eastbound ash cloud into Patagonian airspace.

Following recommendations from the Argentinean aviation authorities, all airlines operating to the region cancelled their flights on 4 and 5 June as the ash cloud expanded to reach the Atlantic coast.

The airports affected include Baricloche, Neuquen, Esquel, Chapelco, Trelew, Viedma, Rio Gallegos, El Calafate, Ushuaia, Rio Grande and Comodoro Rivadavia.

Aerolineas Argentinas said it is assessing the situation and hopes to be able to reopen most routes on 7 June.

Some Andean airports close to the volcano, such as Bariloche, Esquel and Chapelco (San Martin de los Andes), are covered by a layer of ash that will "require some time to be removed". Aerolineas does not expect to be able to operate to these airports for the whole of the week beginning 6 June.

"Operations there could be restarted next weekend [11 and 12 June]," said the airline, adding that it is attending to the stranded passengers "as the situation permits" and "all tickets purchased for any of the affected routes will automatically be valid for use for the next twelve months, regardless of the fare".

San Carlos de Bariloche Airport, one of the Southern Hemisphere's most important ski resorts, is located close to the volcano, which is on the Chilean side of the border,

According to an airport source, the ash cloud was first observed by a Lan Chile pilot and relayed to the airport, which stopped all operations before the official warnings were released by the Chilean and Argentinean authorities.

Air traffic in Chile remains unaffected as strong westerly winds are pushing the ash cloud only over Argentinean territory.