Qantas and Air New Zealand have each reiterated that they will not resume flights to Vanuatu, either in their own right, or as codeshares with Air Vanuatu, until they are happy with the safety of Port Vila’s Bauerfield International Airport.
April is Vanuatu’s peak month for tourism from Australia and New Zealand, so the situation is serious.
Air New Zealand has written to the Director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu to clarify the circumstances under which it would consider resuming services between Auckland and Port Vila.
The letter makes it clear that Air New Zealand would only consider resuming services once a permanent solution for the runway at Bauerfield airfield has been fully funded, designed to a satisfactory standard and contracted to a competent contractor.
All of that will take time.
Air New Zealand General Manager Flight Operations, Stephen Hunt, says that while interim repairs are currently underway, the one year lifespan of these repairs does not provide sufficient operational certainty to build a sustainable service on.
“We continue to monitor the situation in Port Vila and we’re encouraged with the Vanuatu Government progressing the current World Bank Pacific Aviation Investment Program in relation to Bauerfield.”
Air New Zealand says it still hopes the runway will be made satisfactory enough for it to resume services later this year.
“The decision to suspend services was not taken lightly, however, providing a safe and secure operation is paramount and non-negotiable.”
Qantas has taken a similar stance.
Air NZ, Qantas and Virgin Australia all suspended flights to Bauerfield in January as the runway continued to deteriorate.
Air Vanuatu continues to fly non-stop services in its own right using a B737-800, having received an independent assessment of Bauerfield airport from ACG in Australia which satisfied it that the condition of the runway was safe to continue jet operations.
Written by Peter Needham