Air Vanuatu’s sole Boeing 737-800 has been successfully restored to service after a series of delays and mechanical issues, providing relief to stranded passengers. The carrier faced considerable challenges in sourcing replacement parts for the aircraft, particularly given its vital role in connecting Port Vila to Australia and New Zealand.
Air Vanuatu’s Boeing 737-800, stationed at Port Vila Bauerfield International Airport, is a critical component of the airline’s services to major cities in the region, including Auckland, Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne. However, the past year has seen several delays and mechanical troubles that grounded this essential aircraft.
As the carrier worked diligently to source the necessary replacement parts, passengers faced unexpected disruptions during a peak travel season. September and October coincide with school holidays in Australia and New Zealand, and the grounding of Air Vanuatu’s aircraft left many travelers stranded. In response, the airline promptly offered refunds and alternative accommodations while arranging for passengers’ safe return.
The incident resulted in substantial costs for the airline, with expenses expected to reach VT 168 million (approximately 1.38 million USD).
Air Vanuatu’s reliance on neighboring airlines, such as Solomon Airlines, Nauru Airlines, and Fiji Airways, to maintain services during mechanical troubles has become a recurring pattern. Earlier in the year, Solomon Airlines played a crucial role in connecting Honiara, Port Vila, and Auckland when the carrier’s aircraft faced difficulties. This most recent incident also saw Nauru Airlines assisting in services between Port Vila and its Australian and New Zealand destinations. Fiji Airways also contributed to ensuring passengers reached their intended locations.
Air Vanuatu leases its Boeing 737-800 NG, which is approximately 7.7 years old, from the Los Angeles-based Air Lease Corporation. The aircraft, which has been in service since January 2016, plays a pivotal role in connecting the diverse 83-island archipelago of Vanuatu to the global aviation network. The aircraft is powered by two CFMI CFM56-7B26E engines.
In addition to the Boeing 737, Air Vanuatu operates an ATR 72, which facilitates both domestic and international services, particularly between Port Vila and Noumea, New Caledonia.
While the Pacific Islands are a sought-after destination for travelers from New Zealand and Australia, the aviation landscape in the region has seen notable changes. Air New Zealand’s permanent suspension of operations in Port Vila left Air Vanuatu as the sole carrier serving this route. Fiji Airways provides direct services to Nadi, offering convenient connections to the South Pacific network and extended destinations in the United States and Canada. Although Australian flag carrier Qantas does not currently serve Vanuatu, Virgin Australia provides direct services to Brisbane. French carrier Aircalin competes directly with Air Vanuatu by offering direct services to Noumea.