Delta, Qantas and Air Canada reportedly were among operators that chose to alter routes Tuesday and Wednesday to avoid potential disruptions caused by the most powerful solar storm to hit earth since 2003. Some flights originally scheduled to fly transpolar routes were re-routed south, adding to flight times but reducing the risk of disruption to high-frequency radio communication used along the routes. The storms cause fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field, and high frequency radios and other systems are susceptible to the interference. The re-routing was a precaution that not all carriers chose to take.
American, United, Continental and Air New Zealand did not alter flights, according to Businessweek.com, but were closely monitoring flights. The carriers have other options available, including operating at different altitudes or relying on different navigation and communication systems. The storm may have fallen just outside the list for top ten most powerful storms over the past 35 years. Delta’s operations from Detroit to Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul and Shanghai were among those potentially affected. Qantas was expected to divert Antarctic routes like those between Sydney and Buenos Aires. The airline said that one flight would carry an extra five tons of fuel, flying a longer, less southerly route, but details of the direct costs of rerouting for Qantas and other airlines were not immediately available.