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At least one flight due to land at Dunedin Airport has been turned back to Christchurch, after a thunderstorm caused the runway lights to fail.
An airport spokeswoman confirmed one flight had been turned back on Sunday afternoon and technicians were working to fix the lights.
An Airways spokeswoman said lightning struck the airfield power centre at 2.10pm, knocking out the airfield lighting system and some other equipment.
A back-up system then kicked in and power was restored by 3pm, she said.
One flight had been able to land in that time, and another flight was waiting to land as a result of weather conditions around the airport.
Meanwhile, the Spark outage caused by yesterday's storm has affected flights, with Air New Zealand forced to cancel services from Queenstown to Auckland.
Last night, customers south of Ashburton lost cell coverage and internet capability caused by flooding and slips, affecting thousands of customers.
A Spark spokeswoman said the outage was "major" and technicians were working to fix the problem. Some 174 cell towers had been affected but coverage was almost fully restored. Emergency 111 calls were switched to Vodafone towers. Technicians were on site at both locations of the fibre cuts and were testing replacement fibre cables.
The national airline has had to cancel at least two services on Sunday, but was offering rebooking options to affected customers, and looking into options for additional services to affected regions.
An Air New Zealand spokesperson said the cancelled flights were due to the Spark network outage in Queenstown.
Queenstown Airport’s website said due to the network outage it could not display any flight information data.
In a travel update sent out to some passengers, Air New Zealand said was also experiencing issues with check-in kiosks at Queenstown Airport and check-ins may need to be done manually.
“Due to extreme weather conditions in the South Island and the subsequent Spark Communications Network Outage affecting the area, Air New Zealand encourages all passengers booked on affected flights today to call our contact centre on 0800 737 000 for rebooking,” an Air New Zealand spokesperson said.
Air New Zealand said a large number of passengers have been affected and those calling in can expect increased wait times.
One woman who contacted the New Zealand Herald by using the internet at Timaru Airport said more than 50 people were on a waiting list for private flights to Christchurch Airport in a bid to get home.
Those flights were setting stranded passengers back $500, Vicki Abraham said.
“No phone or internet anywhere so extremely difficult to get updates on the roading situation,” she said.
In the latest update, Spark said “almost all” of the impacted South Island broadband, mobile and landline services are back up and running.
However, the telco company warns that services were still vulnerable as they are reliant on a damaged cable which could be affected by moving weather conditions.
Severe thunderstorm warnings remain in place across the country.
NO JOY FROM JETSTAR
An Auckland man missed his partner’s daughter’s birthday and was forced to sleep in his car overnight after the bad weather cut access to Christchurch Airport.
Dan said he bought the last sleeping bag from The Warehouse on Saturday night and hunkered down in his car in Geraldine, unable to reach Christchurch Airport, from where he was due to fly home.
“All of the hotels in the area were full,” he says. “It’s a weird feeling to not have internet,” he says, “completely cut off”.
He wasn’t able to contact anyone - including Jetstar, the airline he was booked on.
He finally reached Jetstar at 7.30am, an hour after his flight had departed, and told them the situation.
“They said there was nothing they could do and to talk to the people at the airport,” Dan said frustrated the airline was refusing to change his flight. “Pretty disappointing.”
He said it was a “sit and wait” situation until the roads reopened and he was expecting to have to pay for another ticket to get home.
Jetstar did not respond to New Zealand Herald requests for comment, but it outlines its rebooking policy on its website.
“We are committed to getting you to your destination on time, however sometimes bad weather, natural disasters, technical problems, operational and other issues can cause flight delays and cancellations,” it reads.
Jetstar says it will provide assistance in the event of a delay or cancellation.
- Daisy Hudson and NZ Herald