Air Vanuatu Bookings Higher than Pre-COVID Levels

Statistics on forward bookings released today at a private sector briefing by the National Airline Air Vanuatu demonstrate that forward bookings exceed pre-COVID normal levels.

Air Vanuatu drew attention to the fact that their international forward bookings to New Zealand and some ports in Australia exceeded the level at which airlines usually put on additional flights. However, they explained that with only one Boeing 737 flying the core international routes, and their current number of crew, the National Airline is not able to easily increase the number of flights. The high number of forward bookings also further support the airlines announcement last week to partner with Fiji Airways, Solomon Airways and Air Nauru. Contracting the crew and aircraft from these airlines to service Air Vanuatu’s routes, assists the airline to stabilize their schedules and meet demand. These announcements followed a particularly difficult month in October where the airline had many disruptions to their services. Air Vanuatu apologised to customers for the frustrations and disappointments this had caused and assured them the new measures would quickly provide improved service levels.

Chief Executive Officer Atu Finau, who joined the airline during the COVID period in 2021, admitted that the arrival of Virgin Australia into the market in 2023 would erode the airlines market share. However, he was optimistic the closer collaboration with the industry will benefit everyone in Vanuatu. He also outlined his plans to increase the fleet of planes to nearly double the number of planes Air Vanuatu has currently.

Neighbouring Fiji Airways has also recently released data demonstrating increased demand for flights to the Pacific from the traditional markets of Australia and New Zealand and outlining their plans for additional planes. This influx of travel in the Pacific is a reaction to the much higher cost of long-haul travel post COVID. Because of the increased costs of longer flights, Kiwi’s and Aussis are traveling closer to home. As one of the closest Pacific neighbours, this provides a great opportunity to Vanuatu to benefit from revenues generated from the increased Pacific tourism from Australia and New Zealand. If we are all ready and attract these clients to our shores.

Air Vanuatu’s announcements included statements about their financial situation. While they did not provide figures, they indicated that part of the airlines debt was accumulated from prior to COVID and some directly related to the COVID losses. The CEO stressed that the shareholders, the Vanuatu Government were encouraged to make decisions on the management of the debt to enable the airline to move forward. He mentioned that the new board would be in place soon to make such decisions. The airline’s statements included an assurance that current cashflow could meet operational expenses indicating that the airline can be profitable.