Fuel Crunch Disrupts Australian Flights

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Pilots of long-haul flights into Sydney, Australia, last week were met with the news that not enough jet fuel was available to fill their aircraft. Fuel at the major port was rationed for several days, and at least 18 flights were diverted to other airports for fuel, adding hours to already-long intercontinental routes. The shortage was blamed on delayed shipments coinciding with lower-than-normal production from local refineries. Supplies were expected to return to normal over the weekend. "It is certainly a bit embarrassing," industry consultant Peter Harbison told Dow Jones Newswire. "You don't really expect to have this happening in a sophisticated commercial environment." Qantas and Singapore Airlines suffered the most disruption, and have not ruled out seeking compensation for the cost of the delays. Meanwhile, two Boeing 747-400 jets belonging to Qantas Airways were grounded last week after inspectors found a crack in a fuselage joint that was apparently caused by damage when one of the planes was being scraped down for repainting in 1998. The second jet was grounded for a thorough inspection because it had been repainted at the same place and time as the first plane.