Passengers due to depart from Manchester Airport were warned on Wednesday about flight disruptions as the airport ran out of jet fuel around 6pm, resulting in a dozen flight cancellations. Aircraft haven’t been able to refuel at the airport since supplies ran dry, sparking fears of mass delays and cancellations – as well as the possibility that thousands of passengers could be left stranded. This is the first time in history that the airport has ran out of jet fuel, though it had come close in 2008. It uses three million litres of fuel every day, and with an airliner carrying 38,000 litres, the airport would need 79 trucks to provide enough fuel for 24 hours.
Due to quality problems with supplies from the Essar refinery, jet fuel supplies were disrupted. Shortly after the airport ran out about 6pm, fuel began to pump through the pipe that links the airport to the refinery. However, it’s not possible for aircraft to begin refuelling until the early hours of the morning, because of the six hours it takes to fill the tanks and for the supply to settle. This meant that the issue would be resolved around midnight, but the impact on services would be felt into today.
Manchester Airport handles 600 flights per day and is used by budget and major carriers. Short-haul airlines were able to avoid the disruption by refuelling their planes at other airports. There were some long-haul flights with delays, as they had to stop to refuel while en route to their destinations.
A spokesman for Manchester Airport said that carriers were being advised to carry extra fuel wherever they could as a precaution while stock of jet fuel is stored on site. Although this problem is short-term, airlines may not be able to refuel their planes at the airport until the issue is resolved. This is why contingency plans have been put in place. Experts from the fuel companies, airport and airlines are working to resolve the problem and minimise any impact to travellers. It’s possible that some carriers will decide to delay, divert or cancel a small number of flights from 6pm and into Thursday morning. However, he didn’t expect this to cause mass disruption.
Passengers planning to depart from Manchester Airport have been advised to contact their airlines before leaving for the airport. A Ryanair spokesman said that they didn’t expect any delays or cancellations of their services. They will add more fuel to their aircraft at other airports to deal with any shortage, he added. An easyJet spokesman was optimistic that it would avoid disruption to the small number of flights scheduled for the evening.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic said its services could take longer than scheduled to allow for stops en route to long-haul destinations for refuelling. A Monarch Airlines spokesperson said the carrier was reviewing the situation and advised passengers to stay updated with what was going on through their website. An Etihad Airways spokesman said that their evening return flight to Abu Dhabi was completely fuelled in the afternoon upon arrival at Manchester Airport, and the aircraft was expected to leave at 9:05pm as scheduled.
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