Virgin Australia has suspended services between Brisbane and Port Vila due to the condition of the runway at Bauerfield International Airport.
The Australian carrier joins Air New Zealand in deciding to cease flying to Vanuatu over concerns about the runway.
Virgin said on Monday it was monitoring the situation in Port Vila while continuing to operate its Boeing 737-800 flights to the Pacific Island destination.
However, the airline said in a statement on Wednesday conditions were now unsuitable for flying.
“After a further review on Wednesday 27 January, we will suspend services between Brisbane and Vanuatu until we have greater confidence that the runway will be maintained appropriately,” Virgin said.
“We will operate a return service between Brisbane and Vanuatu on Saturday 30 January available to guests returning to their port of origin.
“We will continue to work with authorities in Vanuatu and plan to recommence services between Brisbane and Vanuatu as soon as we are confident that appropriate measures are in place.”
Virgin said passengers with tickets for travel between Australia and Port Vila will be given the option of receiving a refund, changing their travel plans or receiving a travel credit.
Air NZ operated its last service to and from Port Vila took place on Sunday, with the Airbus A320 flights supported by “additional oversight” from the airline’s technical experts, to repatriate passengers affected by the decision to cease flying.
Qantas and the NZ flag carrier also removed their respective airline codes from Air Vanuatu-operated services between Vanuatu and Australia and New Zealand.
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Port Vila’s lone runway, 11/29, is 2,600m in length and surfaced with asphalt. A World Bank concessional loan of US$59.5m (A$86.3m) to the Vanuatu Government was announced in 2015 that would include runway resurfacing. However, the work has not commenced.
“The loan of $85 million was approved and in the last six months of 2015 a plan was developed to fully repair Bauerfield airport’s 2600-metre runway,” World Bank regional director Franz Drees-Gross told the Radio Australia website in a French-language news report.
“I believe that by year’s end, the government was left somewhat distracted by its internal problems and divergent views on the need, or not, to repair the entire runway. But we discussed it and I think it’s clearer now.”
Drees-Gross said a World Bank delegation would visit Port Vila in February.
“Our team will arrive on February 8. This is a technical team. We hope to reach agreement with Airports Vanuatu and other partners to carry out repairs immediately, which could be an emergency procedure,” Drees-Gross said.
“It would start work in a few weeks. The other purpose of this mission is to reach agreement on the full repair of the airport.”
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