Air Vanuatu’s third Boeing aircraft arrived at Port Vila’s Bauerfield Airport Monday morning on schedule at 9.30am.

It was welcomed about a hundred invited guests including President Bauldwin Lonsdale, Caretaker Prime Minister Sato Kilman, a number of caretaker ministers, members of the Diplomatic Corp, senior government and Air Vanuatu officials, and representative of the tourism sector.

The aircraft is a brand new B737-800 “Sky Interior” equipped with the latest technology which the Chief Executive Officer of Air Vanuatu Joseph Laloyer says he is confident will appeal to the customers flying with Air Vanuatu as from the next day after arrival February 3, 2016 when it was first used on flight.

The plane took 15 hours to fly from Boeing headquarters in Seatle, Washington via Hawaii and arrived in Port Vila under the command of — Captain Yan Nicholls and Captain Frank Halbauer. Also on board the plane was the CEO and Mrs. Jean Laloyer, the Director General of the Office of the Prime Minister, Johnson Naviti and Mrs. Naviti, the Acting Director General of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Management, August Letlet.

“I am delighted along with the Team that travel back home today to bring this new aircraft all the way from the factory in Seattle,” Laloyer told the invited guests gathered to welcome the arrival of the plane and its passengers in the International Departure Lounge.

“This aircraft is the third new aircraft delivered by the Boeing Group to Air Vanuatu.

The first aircraft was delivered in 1996 and it was a B737-300 which served the airline well for over 11 years. The second aircraft was delivered in 2007 – a B737-800 which also served the national airline and the country for a good 8 years. This aircraft is in its final stage of being returned to its owner. Today marks another milestone for Air Vanuatu with the delivery of a new jet which will serve the country and its tourism industry for the years to come,” he said.

The aircraft was delivered to Air Vanuatu on January 28, 2016 and they started the journey home on 29 January, 2016 and arrived in Port Vila on February 1.

“I hope it will deliver on the traveler expectations and offer a product that will match the competitors in the South West Pacific,” CEO Laloyer added.

He thanked all of his Management Team “who have worked tirelessly over the last 16 months (Finance / Maintenance/ Flight Operations/ Planning/ Negotiating team/ Project team/ Commercial and many more to make this project a reality for Air Vanuatu despite some very difficult and doubtful times – in particular with cyclone Pam and its associated devastation effects which we are all still experiencing in particular within the tourism industry.”

The Air Vanuatu CEO admitted that this new B737-NG project would not have come to its accomplishment Monday without the great contribution and assistance from some institutions and he expressed his gratitude and deep thanks to them. He listed them as: Air Lease Corporation – its Chairman and CEO Mr. Steve Udvar-Hazy and his assistant Mr. Kishore Korde for their trust and confidence in leasing this ALC aircraft to Air Vanuatu; Boeing in Seattle for a very good workmanship and timely delivery on the aircraft under the close supervision by Lufthansa Representative who was our eyes and mouth on the ground; the Vanuatu Government through Air Vanuatu Shareholders who have provided the support and financial undertakings for this project all along; Bred Bank Vanuatu, Its CEO Mr. Darryl Constantin and his colleague Mr. James Hudson for believing in Air Vanuatu Management and tirelessly backing the airline up with Bred Bank Head Office in Paris; Vanuatu Provident Fund, its Board and Management for the financial assistance provided to the Airline during its difficult times; Civil Aviation of Vanuatu through its Director who has provided all the support and help to bring this aircraft smoothly to Vanuatu; the Air Vanuatu insurers – who have full confidence in providing the support to the airline even in the current state of the industry; the Chairman, Board of Directors who have stood by the Management despite heavy pressure, have provided the stability and support needed by the airline to meet its plans and objectives; Transavia for providing and supporting an aircraft to cover for the transition period while awaiting the arrival of the new aircraft.

I understand the leased aircraft will fly out on Thursday 04 February back to the Netherlands; All Air Vanuatu staff which are looking forward to this new aircraft to be able to deliver the quality of service to our customers; Last but not least the Vanuatu Tourism Office and the whole Vanuatu tourism stakeholders for the support of the national airline over the years.

“Despite all our major issues and challenges that have been built up over the last few days, we in Air Vanuatu have today put the first pillar in place to build our nakamal house which will provide the assurance of a safe building to be home to all of us,” the Air Vanuatu CEO continued.

He appealed to everyone involved with the national airlines to work together and “make this house a strong, safe and assuring one for all of us and for our overseas friends who will come to visit our shores.”

Caretaker PM Kilman said he was proud as the Head of the Executive and Chair of the shareholders of this state owned company, to present to the invited guests and the country an aircraft that will ensure that our national flag will not only be flown across the region but, Air Vanuatu can once again claim the high premium class services that it is known for.

He revealed that early last year they were informed as Shareholders of Air Vanuatu that the lease of the B737-AV1 would come to an end at the end of 2015 and the Board of Directors and Management sought their mandate to explore opportunities to either extend the then lease agreement or consider other options. The shareholders gave the board and management the mandate requested noting in particular that Air Vanuatu as the country’s flagship is recognized regionally and internationally for the high standard of service provided; the aircraft, AV1 had been with us for the last 8 years; with only one 737 aircraft, there was a need to ensure that ground turnaround time, in particular maintenance is kept at a minimum to avoid disruption and delay in services; given resource constraints faced by the airline, the aircraft to be used must be efficient and economical; the high standard of service that Air Vanuatu is known for must be maintained or even taken to the next level.

He added that this is a brand new plane which still has the scent of new leather and the Boeing factory which has just pushed it out a couple of days ago is fitted with the latest technology and gadgets, which he was sure would “put less burden on the purse of our national airline enabling it to bring its books back onto the positive side.”

Kilman said he had been informed by the Chairman, DG PMO and the CEO that the deal on this aircraft lease which took some months, attracts a very competitive rate compared with a lease extension of the old aircraft. The deal also did not require any Government guarantees which will discharge the current guarantees required with the old AV1 aircraft. He commended the Board, the CEO and Management right down to the crew and ground handling staff for this successful negotiation and the achievement for the airline.

“The aircraft has been flown safely home over thousands of miles a sign of better days and prosperity. We wish Air Vanuatu all the best for journey ahead,” he concluded.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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