Ash from an underwater volcano north-west of the Tongan capital has forced Virgin Australia and Air New Zealand to cancel flights in and out of country.

Ongoing volcanic activity in Tonga caused the cancellation of services between New Zealand and Tonga, according to Air New Zealand.

Auckland to Nuku’alofa flight NZ970 yesterday was diverted to Samoa and later returned to Auckland. Another flight from Nuku’alofa to Auckland was cancelled.

The airline said regular services have been disrupted and to re-accommodate affected passengers, it had scheduled additional services later in the week, subject to conditions improving.

Virgin Australia said some of its flights to and from Tonga had also been cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud.

New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority meteorologist Peter Lechner told Radio New Zealand the volcano was sending volcanic ash more than 9,000 metres into the air.

He said the last eruption was in 2009, but it also erupted in 1988, 1937 and 1912.

Mr Scott said the volcano started causing some visibility problems for airlines about two days ago.

“The last couple of days the trade winds have sort of backed off and it has become sort of unstable and the wind direction has become unsteady and it’s not changing,” he said.

Residents in Tonga described the eruption as a spectacular sight.

Kate Webster is a travel journalist – travel writer and photographer who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate’s inspiration behind her writing and photography. A passion of the ocean has lead Kate to be a part of Global Surf Sounds, as she continues to mix her love of travel and writing to now include surfing. When she’s not bouncing around the world on ramshackle buses, overcrowded trains, or on the back of a rickshaw, you can find her based in Sydney or the Gold Coast, Australia eagerly planning her next adventure.

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