Vanuatu’s national carrier is not soaring high enough to make it through turbulent times. One aircraft has been repossessed and the owner of their Boeing 737 has given three months notice to make payments or the same fate awaits the larger aircraft.
An AV12 twin-otter was taken back by Papua New Guinean company Hevilift as AU$51,000 remained unpaid from an initial amount of AU$514,000.
For the Boeing 737, AU$5.27 million is owed to the American Leasing Company who are the owners of the aircraft. Air Vanuatu owns two small aircraft while the rest of the fleet has been leased.
Its going from bad to worse in a nation that is also in political turmoil. If Vanuatu loses the Boeing 737 aircraft, the tourism sector could receive another blow resulting in job losses and straining the economy further.
The 737 aircraft flies directly to many of Vanuatu’s tourism markets.
Caretaker prime minister Bob Loughman when asking the president to dissolve the parliament said the political instability was hurting the nation’s troubled economy.
Caretaker minister in charge of Air Vanuatu Jay Ngwele said the government is committed to financially supporting the struggling state-owned enterprise.
Mr Ngwele said in a statement that Air Vanuatu was assuring the public that securing appropriate aircraft to operate is the top focus for the airline’s executive team.
He said they have a plan in place which includes continuing the lease on the Boeing 737, and additional planes as required, to stabilise domestic operations.
Mr Ngwele said an agreed payment plan with the lessor is in place for the Boeing 737.
Board Member of Air Vanuatu and Private Advisor to the Caretaker Minister of Foreign Affairs, Robert Bohn, said the government will meet the lease payments.
The Vanuatu National Provident has clarified that there is no loan deals with the government regarding the airline and a loan to save the airline was impossible.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted a number of airlines which were owned by Pacific island nations. Lockdowns and closed borders meant most of the flights were grounded and it did not help nations which had smaller populations.
Samoa was one of the first nations which returned its 737 aircraft and has just finished paying off the amount which was owed.
Fiji Airways laid off all its inflight crew and had a selected pool when making repatriation flights however government backing has seen the company soar through.