Strong winds in Sydney continued to cause chaos for holiday travel plans around Australia on Saturday, while passengers have been hospitalised after “severe turbulence” on a flight arriving from Honolulu.
Airlines were warning of flight disruptions on Saturday morning, as they braced for one of Sydney airport’s runways to be closed for the second time in as many days after a warning from air traffic controllers of worsening winds.
The adverse weather on Saturday – the first day of school holidays – followed about 100 cancellations and more delays in and out of Sydney on Friday due to earlier strong winds that reduced the airport to single runway operations.
While single runway operations were expected to be in place by about 11am on Saturday, airlines had already cancelled more than 20 flights by 9am, with some carriers unable to run scheduled services due to the fact that staff and aircraft had been unable to arrive in certain cities the previous day.
Disruptions had mostly affected domestic services on Saturday morning.
A Sydney airport spokesperson said it had been advised by Airservices Australia – the government organisation responsible for air traffic control – “that single runway operations will likely be in place by late morning due to strong winds”.
“As a result there are some flight delays and cancellations. Airlines are working hard to re-accommodate passengers and get them on their way,” the spokesperson said, encouraging passengers to contact their airline with any questions.
Qantas is expecting a raft of delays and cancellations in Sydney, with poor weather as well as restrictions on crew hours affecting operations on Saturday. The airline will move customers on to the next available flight.
Virgin Australia’s operations out of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane have been particularly affected, and the airline was working to rebook travellers whose flights have been cancelled.
On Friday, a Hawaiian Airlines flight from Honolulu to Sydney encountered “unexpected severe turbulence” approximately five hours into the flight.
Four passengers and three flight attendants were initially treated by a doctor on board in consultation with physicians on the ground.
The Airbus A330 with 163 passengers and 12 crew landed “without incident” Sydney airport at about 7.45pm on Friday evening.
First responders assessed 12 patients at the scene, a New South Wales ambulance spokesperson said.
Three passengers were hospitalised with injuries including back pain, the spokesperson said.
“Our immediate priority is to continue to care for our passengers and crew affected by this turbulence event, and we thank Sydney airport first responders for their swift assistance,” an Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson said.
Hawaiian Airlines “conducted a thorough inspection of the aircraft” before the return flight departed for Honolulu later on Friday night.