Virgin Australia Halts Vanuatu Service

28th Jan 2016

Virgin Australia is the latest to cancel flights in and out of popular tourist destination of Vanuatu. Like Air New Zealand and Qantas before it (announced their decision last week), Virgin is also stopping Vanuatu flights due to the state of the international runway at the Port Vila Airport.

The decision comes only 3 days after Virgin Australia said it will continue its three-weekly service between Brisbane and Vanuatu, following an examination of the runway by safety experts. However, at the time, the Australian airline also said that it will cancel the service if it no longer deems the runway suitable or safe for taking off or landing planes.

In a statement regarding its decision, Virgin Australia said:

"Customers who are booked to travel to or from Vanuatu will be provided with a number of options, such as a refund, change of destination or travel credit. We will continue to work with authorities in Vanuatu and plan to recommence services between Brisbane and Vanuatu as soon as we are confident that appropriate measures are in place.

On Saturday, the CAAV (Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu) said it directed the Port Vila Airport operator to make sure operations could continue safely for airlines and their passengers by acting on measures required by carriers.

CAAV Director Joseph Niel said:

"It is a fact that the runway is urgently due a resurfacing or repair and this was further exacerbated by the effects of the recent Tropical Cyclone Pam."

Niel also mentioned that the airport operator will start working on repairing the airport instantly. In addition, he said, a few extra safety measures will be implemented, such as sweeping the runway to get rid of any debris or any other objects that don't belong there and could be dangerous to a landing or departing jet.

Meanwhile, Vanuatu's flag carrier Air Vanuatu, Air Solomon and Air Fiji, which uses smaller turboprop jets, are all continuing their operations at Port Vila.

According to the chairman of the Vanuatu Hotel and Resorts Association, Bryan Death, it will take a minimum of two months to fully repair the Port Vila runway and make the airlines that abandoned their Vanuatu routes change their minds.