Several airlines grounded flights to the western Australian city of Perth on Wednesday afternoon because of a volcanic ash cloud _ announcements that came just as air travel elsewhere in the country had been getting back to normal on the fourth day of disruptions.
Qantas had welcome news for passengers unable to get into or out of Tasmania for four days, saying flights would resume Thursday when the ash cloud from Chile is expected to pull back from the southern Australian island.
Air travel out of the southern cities of Melbourne and Adelaide also has been restored, but with the ash plume edging up the country's western coast, Perth was cut off.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia suspended more than 50 Wednesday flights into and out of the city, which is the gateway to the country's remote west.
The ash, which can damage jet engines, has moved across the Pacific from Chile, where a volcano has been erupting since June 4.
The cloud has thrown air travel in Australia and New Zealand into disarray since Sunday, with more than 70,000 passengers at least temporarily stranded even before the Perth cancellations. South American flights have been grounded as well.
Virgin Australia had avoided canceling many flights by changing its flight paths, a step Qantas and other airlines were unwilling to take. But the airline said the ash plume approaching Perth was simply too low to fly around.
"The ash plume is forecast to be at a lower band level of approximately 15,000 feet and with this in mind, Virgin Australia will suspend all services into and out of Perth as a precautionary measure," Virgin Group Executive Sean Donohue said in a statement.
Qantas and its subsidiary Jetstar followed suit and said flights to Perth would be canceled starting in the afternoon.
Tiger said it was monitoring the cloud and had not yet made a decision on whether to suspend its evening flight to Perth.
The greatest disruptions in Australian air travel have centered on flights to and from New Zealand and Tasmania, though Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, and Adelaide were also cut off for a time.
Qantas announced Wednesday that its flights to Tasmania would resume Thursday, though it will likely take several days for the backlog to clear. Projections for the early hours of Thursday from the Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre showed that the ash plume is expected to skirt the island.
Qantas flights to and from New Zealand remain suspended.