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A small airline with big service – Air Vanuatu!

October 15, 2014 Global Travel Media TV, Headline News No Comments Email Email

image001With Air Vanuatu one of the smaller carriers in the region, but with one of the most utilised jet aircraft arguably globally, have you ever wondered about the history of this great little airline?  If so, read on …!

Air Vanuatu is the national carrier of Vanuatu and the country’s proud national flag carrier, operating to Australia, New Zealand and a range of countries in the South Pacific, with its main base at Bauerfield International Airport, Port Vila, with Air Vanuatu established in early 1981 after Vanuatu became independent from the UK and France in 1980.

Originally set up with the assistance of Ansett, the first Air Vanuatu flight was a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 owned and operated by Ansett, which left Sydney for Port Vila on 5 September 1981, with by May 1982 a Boeing 737-200 of Polynesian Airlines, replacing the DC-9, which was then replaced by an Ansett 737-200 in October 1985.

In March 1986 the agreement with Ansett expired and was not renewed, in effect grounding Air Vanuatu, with in 1987 the company re-established, but this time 100% owned by the government of Vanuatu, with a new commercial agreement signed with Australian Airlines and weekly Sydney – Port Vila flights re-commencing on 19 December using a Boeing 727-200 chartered from Australian.

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Air Vanuatu subsequently bought the aircraft in 1989 and cleverly leased it back to Australian for use when it was not used by Air Vanuatu, with in November 1992 the 727 replaced by a Boeing 737-400 leased from Australian Airlines and the following year an Embraer EMB 110 Bandeirante was also leased from Australian, to operate flights between Port Vila and Nouméa, with the leases on both aircraft continuing after Australian was taken over by Qantas in October 1993, with the commercial agreement being rolled-over to Qantas as well.

Qantas remains involved in the Air Vanuatu’s operations, with Air Vanuatu using Qantas’ Frequent Flyer program and Qantas codeshares on Air Vanuatu’s flights from Australia, while also providing maintenance and pilot training.


Air Vanuatu terminated the lease on the Qantas Boeing 737-400 after it took delivery of its own Boeing 737-300 in April 1997, with the same month its Bandeirante services ceased when a Saab 2000 entered service, with the lease on the Saab 2000 ending in March 1999, with in June Air Vanuatu commenced services with a de Havilland Canada Dash 8 of Vanuatu’s government-owned domestic carrier Vanair on weekly services to Nouméa.

In April 2001 Air Vanuatu merged with Vanair, however the merger was reversed only five months later, with in November 2003 an ATR 42 entered service for use on domestic routes in competition with Vanair and in September 2004, Air Vanuatu again merged with Vanair.

In January 2008 Air Vanuatu replaced its Boeing 737-300 with a new Boeing 737-800, reported to be the most utilised 737 globally, with three Harbin Y-12s added to the fleet in early 2009 and in October the same year the airline took delivery of a new ATR 72-500 aircraft to replace its ATR 42, making its first revenue flight for Air Vanuatu on 8 November 2009, with a new ATR to arrive shortly and talk of Air Vanuatu acquiring another Boeing 737-800.

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Air Vanuatu operates an amazing range and selection of domestic routes throughout the country, including to:-

Malampa: Craig Cove (Craig Cove Airport), Lamap (Malekoula Island Airport), Norsup (Norsup Airport), Paama (Paama Airport), South West Bay (South West Bay Airport), Ulei (Ulei Airport).

Penama: Longana, East Ambae (Longana Airport), Naone, Maewo (Maewo-Naone Airport), Redcliffe, South Ambae (Redcliffe Airport), Lonorore, South Pentecost (Lonorore Airport), North Pentecost (Sara Airport), Walaha, West Ambae (Walaha Airport).

Shefa, Émaé (Siwo Airport), Lamen Bay (Lamen Bay Airport), Tongoa (Tongoa Airport), Valesdir (Valesdir Airport).

Tafea: Anatom (Anatom Airport), Aniwa (Aniwa Airport), Dillon’s Bay (Dillon’s Bay Airport), Futuna Island (Futuna Airport), Ipota (Ipota Airport), Tanna (White Grass Airport).

Torba: Gaua (Gaua Airport), Mota Lava (Mota Lava Airport), Sola, Vanua Lava (Vanua Lava Airport), Torres Islands (Torres Airport)

Internationally, Air Vanuatu operates six international routes to Australia, New Caledonia and New Zealand, including the following: –

Sydney, Brisbane to and from both Port Vila and Santo, Auckland, Melbourne, Noumea in New Caledonia, Honiara in the Solomon Islands, and Nadi and Suva in Fii and it has code share agreement with Air New Zealand to Auckland, Fiji Airways to Nadi and Honiara and with Qantas to Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

I met with Air Vanuatu’s General Manger Australia Malcolm Pryor at Tok Tok recently and to hear what he had to tell me about this small, but deceivingly large airline and to see some aircraft, airports and flying around Vanuatu, all you have to do is click on the video box below: –

Look out for the questions in our “Win a trip for two to Vanuatu with Air Vanuatu, Vanuatu Tourism” and our top Vanuatu tourism partners!

A report by John Alwyn Jones – Global Travel Media and Global Travel Media TV reporting on location from Tok Tok 2014 and Vanuatu, brought to you by Air Vanuatu and Vanuatu Tourism.

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