Air New Zealand says Vanuatu’s Bauerfield Airport will remain off-limits for its aircraft until a permanent fix to the airport’s runway are completed.
In a sign the airline intends to stay away from Bauerfield for an extended period, Air NZ said on Friday a return to Port Vila would only be considered once a fully-funded permanent repair to the airport’s runway that was designed to a satisfactory standard and contracted to a competent contractor was in place.
“We continue to monitor the situation in Port Vila and we’re encouraged with the Vanuatu Government progressing the current World Bank Pacific Aviation Investment Program in relation to Bauerfield,” Air NZ general manger for flight operations Stephen Hunt said in a statement.
“The decision to suspend services was not taken lightly, however, providing a safe and secure operation is paramount and non-negotiable.”
Hunt said the repair work currently being undertaken on the runway only had a one-year lifespan and did not provide “sufficient operational certainty to build a sustainable service on”.
Air NZ said it had written to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu Director regarding its position on the Bauerfield runway.
In January, Virgin Australia and Air NZ suspended flights into and out of Port Vila due to concerns about the runway, while Qantas removed its QF airline code from Air Vanuatu’s flights to the country from Australia.
Air Vanuatu and Solomon Airlines maintained their jet services into and out of Bauerfield Airport.
In February, Air Vanuatu said an independent report of the runway conditions at Bauerfield determined it was safe to operate jet flights into and out of Port Vila.
A World Bank concessional loan of US$59.5 million to the Vanuatu Government was announced in 2015 that would include resurfacing the airport’s single runway, the 2,600m long Runway 11/29. However, the work did not commence.
Emergency repairs, which are being carried out by New Zealand company Fulton Hogan, began in March and were expected to be completed later in April.
Vanuatu government spokesman Kiery Manassah said 72 per cent of the spraying treatment and 40 per cent of the crack sealing has been completed.
“The government wants to assure the tourism sector that come May, let’s say come May, everything should be done and people should be able to travel freely and book their flights and continue coming to Vanuatu,” Manassah told the Radio New Zealand website on March 23.
Qantas said on Friday it would not codeshare on any Air Vanuatu flight until it was satisfied it was safe to operate into and out of Bauerfield Airport.
“Qantas needs to be absolutely confident in the condition of the runway at Bauerfield International Airport (Port Vila) before we would reinstate our codeshare with Air Vanuatu,” Qantas said in a statement.
“This means being wholly satisfied that the interim repairs, once completed, are sufficient and that plans for a permanent fix in the near future are fully confirmed and meet international standards.”