Sydney and Melbourne flights hit by ash cloud

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Disruptions to Australian air services have continued, affecting the country's two biggest cities Sydney and Melbourne, as an ash cloud resulted in the cancellation and delays of several flights.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology and the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre said that the ash plume from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle Volcano in Chile would have a base level of 20,000ft on Tuesday. That, said airlines, prevent the operation of regular services.

On Tuesday, Australia's national carrier Qantas Airways cancelled 73 domestic flights and six trans-Tasman services due to the volcanic ash. These included a majority of services from Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney.

The airline said that on Wednesday, all domestic services to and from Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney would be cancelled. International services to and from Sydney and Melbourne, including trans-Tasman flights, will be delayed.

"The Qantas Group's approach to flying is based on the highest standards of safety and risk assessment. Safety is always put before schedule," said the Oneworld alliance member.

Virgin Australia suspended all services in and out of Melbourne and Sydney from late Tuesday until further notice.

Other airlines had not reported cancellations, although Air New Zealand said that it was monitoring the situation and would provide an update if the situation changed.