A Citilink airplane is seen covered with ash from Mount Kelud at Adi Sucipto Airport in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Mount Kelud, on the island of Java, erupted late on Thursday night, sending a huge plume of ash and sand 17km into the air. Picture: Dwi Oblo

Sydney -

Australia's major airlines apologised to passengers on Friday after flights were cancelled, delayed or rerouted because of an ash plume from Indonesia's Mount Kelud volcano.

Virgin Australia announced the cancellation of all flights to Phuket, Denpasar, Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands.

Qantas Airways said two Jakarta flights scheduled to leave Sydney on Friday had been held over until Saturday because of the ash cloud.

Emile Jansons, manager of the Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in the far-north Australia city of Darwin, said in a statement that “high level ash has entered the stratosphere and may stay in the atmosphere for a number of days” and that the centre was “providing airlines with the latest information so they can make suitable flight plans”.

The centre, which serves a region stretching right up into Indonesia, added that “we cannot be sure how long the eruption or the impact from the ash will continue”. - Sapa-dpa