Vanuatu Government refuses Air NZ charter flight
The Minister of Public Utilities and Infrastructure, Jotham Napat, has directed the Civil Aviation Authority Vanuatu (CAAV) to deny an Air New Zealand charter flight carrying RSE workers to fly in and out of Port Vila on April 28.
The government has questioned Air New Zealand’s stance on refusing to commit to regular commercial services carrying visitors citing concerns with the runway, yet has no apparent concerns to operate a charter flight carrying ni-Vanuatu workers.
“CAAV has updated all airlines with the completed works at Bauerfield airport and has been pleased with the response from all airlines except for Air New Zealand,” Minister Napat said.
“Virgin Australia has flown personnel over to inspect the completed works this week and we expect them to return to scheduled services next month.
“It is regrettable that Air New Zealand has not done the same, yet continues to refuse to operate commercial services.” Minister Napat said the government is seeking a commitment from Air New Zealand to resume commercial services and until such commitment is received, charter services from the airline will not be accepted. “The Salwai government made a commitment to immediately undertake emergency repairs to Bauerfield airport once elected. “Those works have been completed and meet all safety requirements for airlines to resume jet services in to Port Vila. “We have updated Air New Zealand on the completed works yet they refuse to commit to scheduled services. “To apply for a charter using an Airbus A320 indicates they are satisfied with the state of the runway – so the question must be asked, why are they willing to operate a profitable charter flight, yet not commit to resuming commercial services?” the Minister said. In a letter from Air New Zealand to CAAV, the airline acknowledged the ramifications of decisions to suspend services and stated “providing a safe and secure operation is our priority and there can be no exceptions in this regard”.
“Yet despite their ‘no exceptions’ rule, Air New Zealand wishes to operate a commercially profitable charter flight. “The government has denied their application and instead encourages such charters to be operated by airlines committed to the destination.” Minister Napat has also announced the government has begun negotiations with the World Bank to upgrade Bauerfield Airport to a full Code E runway. A Code E runway will allow for larger aircrafts such as Boeing 787 and Airbus A330 to land in Port Vila. “The decision to seek assistance to upgrade the runway to Code E standard was made by the Council of Ministers on Thursday,” Minister Napat said.
An airport task force appointed by the minister has already commenced discussions with World Bank with the view to commence the upgrade without further delays. “The Salwai Government is committed to supporting development and tourism in Vanuatu – we need the infrastructure in place to do so. “This upgrade will see a significant increase in visitor arrivals to the country. “Vanuatu has much to offer tourists and our regional markets are very important to us, however we need to have a long term strategy to encourage new markets to develop, such as Asia and beyond,” Minister Napat said. Meanwhile, though not related to the government’s decision above, Air Vanuatu has announced additional international flights will commence on June 1 due to strong demand and in support of the Vanuatu Tourism Office’s tourism recovery marketing campaign.
“For the first time since Cyclone Pam, we will be operating six flights a week to and from Sydney to Port Vila, three flights a week to and from Brisbane and three flights a week to and from Auckland,” chief executive officer Joseph Laloyer said.
The increased flights are in addition to Air Vanuatu and codeshare partner Fiji Airways’ eight flights a week between Port Vila and Fiji and Air Vanuatu’s four flights a week to Noumea. “Air Vanuatu would like to acknowledge the work of the government of Vanuatu to quickly complete emergency repairs at Bauerfield airport and look forward to increasing our services and commitment to Vanuatu.”
Air New Zealand Airbus A320-232 of the type that was denied landing at Baurfield Aiport in Port Vila, Vanuatu.