Virgin Australia Keeps Service to Vanuatu For Now

26th Jan 2016

Passengers of Virgin Australia will be glad to hear that their preferred carrier is still flying to the popular holiday resort of Vanuatu, despite the unfavourable conditions of the Port Vila runway. The airline has made this decision following a full review of the runway over the weekend conducted by a team of safety experts.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Australia said:

"Following this review, we have concluded that currently our aircraft can continue to safely operate in and out of Port Vila."

What this means for travellers is that they can still book a ticket on one of the three weekly flights between Port Vila and Brisbane that Virgin operates.

Virgin Australia spokeswoman also said:

"We continue to monitor the condition of the runway and Virgin Australia will immediately cease all operations between Australia and Port Vila if we are not convinced that the runway is suitable for ongoing operations."

She continued:

"Safety is always our number one priority and Virgin Australia would never put its passengers, crew or aircraft at risk."

Last Friday, both Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand have cancelled all flight to and from Vanuatu, stating the poor conditions of the Port Vila's international runway as the reason. In addition, the Australian airline has also ceased its codesharing partnership with Air Vanuatu on flights between Port Vila and Sydney and Brisbane.

Despite these issues, Vanuatu's national carrier is continuing its operations, at least for the time being. This was decided after a meeting between the airline's management and pilots with the local regulators and airport operators held during the weekend.

Air Vanuatu issued a statement, saying the following:

"The safety measures imposed by Air Vanuatu require daily 'sweeping' of the runway plus regular inspections prior to and after take-off; new obstacle and runway surveys and 200 meters of runway to be marked for urgent repairs."

The island of Vanuatu was hit hard by Cyclone Pam, a Category 5 Hurricane, which killed 15-16 people and made damage to property of about US$360 million.

Vanuatu relies heavily on tourism from Australia and New Zealand. In order to help it repair its international airport, the World Bank granted a US$559.5 million credit to Vanuatu's government in May. However, according to the now former PM Joe Natuman, the new government had pulled out of the arrangement.