Qantas, Jetstar expand operations to Vanuatu

Jul 1, 2024 | Blog, News, Pacific, Vanuatu

Qantas and Jetstar have announced plans to introduce up to nine return flights per week between Australia and Vanuatu, with ticket sales having commenced across both airlines.

Starting on September 10, 2024, Qantas will operate three weekly flights between Brisbane and Port Vila, with the possibility of increasing to five flights per week depending on demand. Jetstar will begin offering up to four weekly flights between Sydney and Port Vila starting December 12, 2024.

These new routes are set to add over 150,000 seats annually between the two countries, providing a mix of all-inclusive travel options on Qantas and low-fare options with additional services available on Jetstar.

Qantas will utilise its Boeing 737 aircraft for the new flights, while Jetstar will deploy its expanding fleet of Airbus A321neo LRs.

The introduction of these services is expected to bolster Vanuatu’s tourism sector, enhancing its appeal as a premier destination for Australian travellers. Vanuatu is celebrated for its rich Indigenous culture, stunning beaches, active volcanoes, vibrant marine life, and adventure activities, making it a captivating destination close to Australia.

Qantas International CEO, Cam Wallace, highlighted that the new route would cater to the ongoing demand for travel between Australia and Vanuatu. He expressed excitement about offering direct flights between Brisbane and Vanuatu, emphasizing that this new route would ensure essential connectivity for both leisure and business travel. Wallace noted that Qantas has long served Vanuatu through its codeshare partnership, and this new route provides customers with more choices and consistent service to a beloved island destination.

Jetstar Group CEO, Stephanie Tully, remarked that Vanuatu is a new addition to Jetstar’s destinations. She mentioned the arrival of their 13th A321neo LR next month and the upcoming addition of more new aircraft, allowing Jetstar to expand its international network with the introduction of low-fare seats between Sydney and Port Vila. Tully expressed enthusiasm about offering Australians affordable holiday options to one of the nearest and most beautiful Pacific island destinations.

Developments at Air Vanuatu

Embattled airline Air Vanuatu has received several expressions of interest for a takeover or purchase of its assets following its liquidation on May 9 due to mass flight cancellations. Liquidator Morgan Kelly of Ernst and Young said that various parties are interested in resuming the airline’s operations, and offers are currently under review with an aim for a swift resolution.

The airline’s assets include international airport slots in major cities like Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, New Caledonia, and Fiji, as well as owned and leased aircraft. Air Vanuatu owes creditors at least $110 million, a figure expected to rise due to outdated financial information. Additionally, around 170 of the airline’s 441 staff were made redundant in late May. No date has been set for the resumption of operations.

Fiji Airways’ interest

Meanwhile, Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Matai Seremaiah, announced Fiji Airways’ interest in connecting Port Vila to Tanna and Santo using an ATR aircraft, aiming to maintain national connectivity. This was revealed at a press conference by the Ministerial Taskforce, chaired by Seremaiah, appointed to find sustainable solutions for Air Vanuatu’s services and report to the Council of Ministers.

Seremaiah emphasised the goal of restoring both domestic and international air connectivity, with Fiji Airways’ involvement being a significant step. Negotiations with Virgin Australia and Air Nauru are ongoing to reconnect Brisbane to Santo, with a potential agreement expected soon. The committee is working diligently to finalise solutions and will announce future plans following Air Vanuatu’s liquidation once negotiations conclude and receive government approval. Seremaiah assured citizens of the government’s commitment to addressing these challenges and finding optimal solutions.