Air Vanuatu says it expects to announce a profit when its annual audit is completed, this despite a difficult couple of years following Cyclone Pam, an internal restructure and the withdrawal of codeshare agreements over the state of Bauerfield airport.
The national carrier says it has continued to fulfill its corporate social responsibility by subsidising unprofitable domestic routes, ensuring services to the outer islands of Vanuatu and supporting local sporting teams and charities.
Last year saw Air Vanuatu return to the ranks of the world’s safest airlines with a successful safety audit conducted by IATA. The registration means the airline passed nearly 1000 safety checks of its entire international operation, from engineering to cabin crew and administration, a statement from the airline said.
At the time of the IOSA audit, CEO Joseph Laloyer thanked the shareholders, Board of Directors and staff for their commitment to safety.
The airline appointed expert staff in the key roles of engineering, maintenance control and safety systems, all contributing to the IOSA result.
Air Vanuatu says a new marketing push has seen the airline work more closely with tourism stakeholders in an effort to combat the downturn in marketing overseas with the suspension of Air New Zealand and Qantas codeshares.
“We have strong competition in the region, particularly from Fiji Airways which is home to a very mature tourism destination. They are years ahead of us in terms of marketing on an international stage, but we feel we are catching up,” Mr. Laloyer said.
Air Vanuatu says it has spent the last 12 months negotiating with both Qantas and Air New Zealand to resume codeshare agreements. Both airlines have indicated they will not until permanent repairs at Bauerfield are announced.
“Qantas is already codesharing with us on the Brisbane – Santo route which is an endorsement of our safety standards and operation,” Mr. Laloyer said.
“In fact, we have seen strong growth on this route and are hoping to finalise a weekly Noumea-Santo service once approvals are received from the New Caledonian authorities.”
Air Vanuatu says it has invested heavily in new aircraft and staff in the last two years, seeing a brand new Boeing 737-800 and ATR72-600 join the fleet.
“These are very expensive investments, but necessary ones to grow our market and improve our services,” Mr. Laloyer said.
“The months ahead see us focusing very strongly on retaining our IOSA registration, promoting new routes, investing in staff training and delivering a safe and reliable operation to our passengers,” he said.
The airline’s internal restructure saw a number of positions made redundant in order to get the airline back in the black.
“It hasn’t been easy for our staff, but at the end of the day, thanks to the downturn in arrivals after TC Pam and other factors, we needed to look very hard at our operation to make it work,” Mr. Laloyer said.
“We not only have a responsibility to our staff and passengers, but also to our shareholders to ensure we are running the best operation we possibly can.”
Mr. Laloyer said the airline has experienced very few engineering delays since the arrival of the Boeing 737-800 but there was work to do on the domestic front.
“We have appointed a very experienced engineer to oversee the department.
“This is already netting results with increased accountability in a very important area.
“We purchased an additional Twin Otter aircraft last year to assist with domestic operations and we are continuing to grow our domestic operations.”
Air Vanuatu is expected to release their annual report by June 2017.