Australians among hundreds stranded by Air Vanuatu flight cancellations

Australians among hundreds stranded by Air Vanuatu flight cancellations

Tuesday 26/09/2023
Air Vanuatu is hoping to resume all international flights by the end of this week.(Facebook: Air Vanuatu)

Hundreds of travellers have been stranded in Vanuatu after the country's sole international aircraft was grounded due to mechanical issues.

Air Vanuatu says its Boeing 737 is grounded in Brisbane "awaiting a mechanical part", meaning more than 20 Air Vanuatu flights to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji have been cancelled or rescheduled since Friday.

The airline says it is "deeply sorry" for the "significant disruptions" and is promising to resume its international schedule by the end of this week.

Ulladulla resident Janice O'Neil said she was en route to the airport on Friday when she received an email saying her flight from Sydney to Vanuatu was cancelled.

Ms O'Neil planned to meet her husband, who was already in the country, for five days of "sunrise beach walks and sunset beverages" on Erakor Island.

"Unfortunately, he is there by himself," she said.

"It is so disappointing. Life is busy … this was going to be a chance for us to reconnect."

Yumi Tours and Transfers operator Philip Ayong said in the long term, travel disruptions would begin to affect his business.

Mr Ayong said Air Vanuatu needed to partner with larger airlines to offer customers more consistent flights.

He noted political instability and poor management was "not really helping".

"With the way it is trending, it's not really building a good reputation," he said.

"People are very anxious and very angry at the same time, having already paid tickets and [having flights cancelled] without a proper explanations about refunds."

An airline in crisis

A travel agent herself, Ms O'Neil said she would "never sell Air Vanuatu to my customers again".

"Virgin would be my airline of choice moving forward for my customers," she said.

Late last year, more Australian tourists were stranded just days out from Christmas after an Air Vanuatu plane was grounded, requiring maintenance.

Passengers were delayed by a week and had complained about poor communication from the airline, before Solomon Airlines stepped in to help get people home.

Air Vanuatu operates codeshare agreements with Fiji Airways, Air Calin, Air Nuigini and Solomon Airlines but it only has one international aircraft, a Boeing 737.

In a statement today, the airline said the disruptions were "unforeseen".

"We are very aware that numerous guests are either stuck in Vanuatu waiting to get home or unable to get to Vanuatu for their holiday," the statement said.

The airline said it was offering stranded customers accommodation and meals in

Incoming chairman and former prime minister Moana Carcasses Kalosil said it had impacted about 800 people.

"I understand their feelings and say, 'Sorry, we were trying our best,'" he said.

"I just became chairman so I cannot do miracles. I don't have a magic wand to find a solution like this but I can tell you that we try our best to serve our customers."

Mr Kalosil would not comment on issues plaguing Air Vanuatu, but said Prime Minister Sato Kilman was set to announce a "new direction for the airline" this week.

By Marian Faa

Original article link:

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