Virgin Australia has resumed flights to Vanuatu, with the first service from Brisbane to Port Vila taking off last Friday.
Flight VA53 departed Brisbane at 11:36am on 31 March using a Boeing 737-800, touching down at Port Vila at 2:59pm. Virgin is planning to operate up to five direct services between Brisbane and Port Vila per week during the peak season, and three in the off-peak.
“This is an important and longstanding connection for Virgin Australia, which started flying between Australia and Vanuatu nearly 20 years ago,” said Virgin Australia Chief Strategy and Transformation Officer Alistair Hartley.
“It means Australians now have another wonderful Pacific Island destination just a short flight away and an opportunity to enjoy the unique beauty and culture of Vanuatu. This is also really positive news for Vanuatu, which relies on connections like these as a source of tourism and to connect friends and family across the Pacific.”
Vanuatu Tourism Office CEO Adela Issachar Aru said Virgin Australia “has always been a valued partner” to the island nation.
“Australian visitation has continued to rise steadily since Vanuatu’s borders reopened in July 2022, and greater connectivity to Vanuatu, thanks to Virgin Australia, will help us welcome even more holidaymakers to our shores in 2023 and beyond,” said Aru.
Virgin has been ramping its international services back up and is looking to expand its network after its first attempt to bring short-haul international flights back as it came out of administration was halted by the COVID-19 Omicron wave in January 2022. Last month it resumed services from Brisbane and Sydney to Samoa, and launched its first flights from the Gold Coast to Denpasar.
Its international short-haul network as of this month includes Bali, Queenstown, Nadi, Port Vila and Apia, with long-haul services to Tokyo (Haneda) to begin in June. Virgin expects to increase its international capacity by 50 per cent by mid-next year.
CEO Jayne Hrdlicka this week revealed how her senior team felt “a huge amount of pressure” to rebuild the airline after it exited administration.
In a 5,000-word profile with the AFR’s Financial Review Magazine, Hrdlicka said she had to revamp “every part” of the business to bring it back to financial health.
“And that meant all of our basic tools – the way we did things, supplier agreements, getting the experience right, pricing and revenue management – had to be completely redone,” she said.
“Every part of the business had to be taken apart and put back together again, and it had to be done before people started flying. We all felt a huge amount of pressure.”