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Qantas approved to compete with Virgin on Vanuatu route

written by Jake Nelson | June 20, 2024

Seth Jaworski shot this Qantas 737-800, VH-XZL.

Qantas has received the go-ahead from the International Air Services Commission (IASC) to launch its own flights to Vanuatu.

The IASC has awarded the Flying Kangaroo 1,798 seats of capacity per week between Australia and Vanuatu, which Qantas plans to fly with a mixture of its own 737-800s, wet-leased Alliance E190s, and Jetstar’s A321neos, putting it in direct competition with Virgin Australia.

“We welcome the determination and will provide further details on our flight schedule as soon as possible,” a Qantas spokesperson told Australian Aviation.

In their decision, IASC chair Genevieve Butler and commissioner Jane McKeown noted that Qantas plans to operate up to three 174-seat 737 services per week between Brisbane and Port Vila, starting 10 September and increasing to five over the end-of-year peak, as well as up to daily services from the northern summer 2025 using 97-seat E190s.

Additionally, the group plans to operate 232-seat Jetstar A321neo services up to four times per week from Sydney to Port Vila, beginning 12 December. Jetstar will be the only airline operating services between Sydney and Vanuatu, with Virgin planning instead to boost flights from Brisbane.

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“The Commission notes that Qantas and its wholly-[owned] subsidiary are established international carriers which currently operate scheduled international services between Australia and several international destinations,” wrote McKeown and Butler.

“On 11 June 2024, the Commission received confirmation from the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts (the Department) that Qantas has been designated as an Australian international airline under the Australia – Vanuatu Air Services Agreement and holds an International Airline Licence issued by the Department.

“The Commission therefore finds that Qantas is reasonably capable of obtaining the necessary regulatory approvals to operate on the route and of using the proposed capacity allocation.”

Qantas has moved in on the Vanuatu route following the collapse of flag carrier Air Vanuatu, which went into voluntary liquidation last month owing at least $99 million, according to its liquidators Ernst and Young.

Air Vanuatu codeshared with Qantas on daily flights from Sydney to Port Vila, four flights per week from Brisbane to Port Vila, and three flights per week from Melbourne to Port Vila, as well as weekly services from Brisbane to Santo operated for Air Vanuatu by Solomon Airlines.

Ernst & Young indicated this week that non-binding offers are on the table for Air Vanuatu, which is currently undergoing restructuring with the aim of returning it to the skies.

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