Vanuatu’s national carrier Air Vanuatu has decided to cancel its order for Airbus A220s and instead plans to add more regional turboprop aircraft.
“Air Vanuatu will not be proceeding with its order for three Airbus A220s, but we are looking at alternative options as part of [our] fleet review,” Air Vanuatu CEO, Atu Finau, said in an emailed response to a query from Smart Aviation Asia Pacific.
He said the airline’s fleet comprises of: one ATR 72, one Boeing 737, one Britten Norman Islander and two De Havilland Aircraft of Canada Twin Otters.
In a separate statement, posted on the airline’s website, Finau said with the help from the government, the carrier has purchased two additional Twin Otters and will deploy the aircraft on domestic routes in late 2022.
He confirmed the carrier, which has one ATR 72, plans to purchase a second ATR by year-end.
Finau added the airline has presented a business case for the purchase of a second Boeing 737.
Expanding the domestic fleet will improve the airline’s ability to maintain flight schedules, add new services and deliver better quality services, he adds.
Smart Aviation Asia Pacific reported earlier that the government has helped Air Vanuatu pay lease payments owing on one of the Twin Otters already in its fleet.
The statement said the carrier responded to the pandemic with significant growth of the air cargo business due to shipping delays.
Air Vanuatu cargo manager, Lynda Fred Sewen said in the statement the airline had a 25% increase in cargo services in the last 18 months. This includes special charter flights to deliver items to the islands, she adds.
The statement said the airline has added revenue in chartered flights, with its advantage of having both an international and domestic fleet of aircraft to suit either operation.
Air Vanuatu announced in February 2019 that it had ordered two A220-100s and two A220-300s with first deliveries set for June 2020.
But the pandemic led the airline to delay delivery.
Then in 2020, there was a change in power. The new Vanuatu Government reduced the A220 order to three and announced in October of that year, it would hold an inquiry to look at why the carrier had ordered – what the new government considered to be – too many aircraft.
The new government has made clear publicly that it felt upgrading the domestic fleet is a higher priority than buying new aircraft to boost international tourism.