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Airlines take flight again as ash cloud moves off Australia

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Ash cloud grounds flights again
  • Qantas resumes most flights Wednesday
  • Ash cloud comes from the June 4 eruption of Chilean volcano
  • The cloud stranded Australian flights more than a week ago
  • New Zealand flights are cancelled indefinitely

(CNN) -- An ash cloud from a Chilean volcano thinned over Australia Wednesday, freeing commercial airliners to take to the skies after grounding them this week.

Qantas resumed domestic flights to and from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide and international service began again from Sydney and Melbourne. However, trips across the Tasman Sea to and from New Zealand remain cancelled indefinitely.

Virgin Australia airline also said its New Zealand flights were cancelled. Virgin said Wednesday it was resuming service from Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Albury, Newcastle and Coffs Harbour.

The airlines' decision to ground the flights was based on information provided by the Australian Volcanic Ash Advisory Center.

"This eruption ejected these small particles very high in the atmosphere, to a region of stronger winds known as the jet stream," the advisory center said. "The jet stream has then carried the ash particles great distances to the east."

The same ash cloud spawned by the fiery South American volcano also forced major flight cancellations Down Under a week and a half ago.

"It is not unprecedented for volcanic ash to remain suspended for long time periods," according to the center.

The June 4 eruption of Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in the Chilean Andes Mountains sent plumes of smoke more than six miles into the air, filling an otherwise bright blue sky that day with a massive stream of white smoke.

Chile is located on the so-called "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines circling the Pacific Basin that is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The ash cloud forced the shutdown of flights in and out of at least 10 Australian cities Tuesday.

CNN's Ed Payne contributed to this report.