SYDNEY - Flights resumed over northern Australia Sunday as major ash plumes cleared from an Indonesian volcanic eruption that stranded thousands of passengers.
The city of Darwin was completely cut off from air traffic on Saturday by ash clouds drifting from the Sangeang Api volcano, forcing the cancellation of dozens of flights.
Passengers hoping to travel to Bali from Australia's west coast were also impacted by the plume.
Darwin airport said flights had resumed on Sunday afternoon, with national carrier Qantas Airways confirming it had restarted operations and budget airlines Jetstar and Virgin also set to return to the skies.
"Flights are coming back online but there are some scheduled changes so people still need to check with the airline with regards to what's happening with their particular flight," a Darwin airport spokeswoman said.
Airservices Australia, the government's airspace agency, said the plume had continued to dissipate overnight and throughout the day and skies were clearing.
"The ash plumes that may have affected flights into and out of Cairns and Townsville today have dispersed and will not affect flights. Brisbane flights will also be unaffected," the agency said.
"Decisions on whether or not flights will operate will be made by individual airlines and operators based on a careful assessment of all available information." Indonesian transport ministry spokesman J.A. Barata said two airports on the volcano's neighbouring islands of Sumbawa and Sumba had been reopened and that a third affected on Timor island was now operating as usual after volcanic ash had been swept from the premises.
National carrier Garuda, which operates turbo-prop planes to hop between the resort island of Bali and the affected islands to its east, cancelled its flights in the region. Three domestic flights operated by other airlines had also been cancelled, said Barata.
"But visibility is fine. Some airlines are just being cautious," he said, adding that further eruptions were possible and would likely prompt further cancellations.