Virgin Australia is returning to Vanuatu after a five-month absence.
The Australian carrier’s first flight to Port Vila since suspending service to the popular tourist destination in January due to concerns about the runway is planned for May 23. Virgin will fly three times a week between Brisbane and Port Vila with Boeing 737-800s.
Virgin said its team of safety experts had inspected the runway and concluded it was safe to resume normal operations to the airport.
“Safety is always our number one priority and we will continue to monitor the runway to ensure that it remains suitable for operations,” Virgin said in a statement on Wednesday.
Air New Zealand, which also stopped flying to Port Vila in January because of the state of the runway, said in April it would not return until a permanent fix to the airport’s runway problems was completed.
Air Vanuatu and Solomon Airlines maintained their jet services into and out of Bauerfield Airport. Qantas also removed its QF airline code on Air Vanuatu’s services.
Since January, airport authorities have undertaken some emergency repairs, including crack sealing, that were completed in April.
Meanwhile, Virgin said its Brisbane-Emerald service will be operated by Alliance Aviation with Fokker 70s under a wet lease arrangement.
The switch from Virgin’s 68-seat ATR turboprops currently on the route to Alliance’s 80-seat Fokker 70s was due to take place in late May or early June.
Virgin said there would be no change to passengers’ baggage entitlements or frequent flyer benefits, checkin procedures or flight numbers.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to serve the Emerald community, Virgin Australia will continue to offer over 30 flights per week between Brisbane and Emerald,” Virgin said in an emailed statement.
“These flights will soon be operated by our partner Alliance Airlines on behalf of Virgin Australia, using Fokker 70 jets that will offer more seats for passengers and the fastest flight time on the Brisbane – Emerald route.”
The wet lease arrangement was separate to Virgin’s partnership with Alliance on charter and fly-in/fly-out contracts announced in February.