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Financial Pressures Force Air Vanuatu to Ground Flights and Seek Restructuring

Vanuatu's national airline seeks financial restructuring after grounding flights and dissolving its board.

An Air Vanuata 737-800 (Photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, CC BY-SA 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Air Vanuatu, the national carrier of Vanuatu, has found itself in a precarious position. The airline has been forced to take drastic measures, grounding its aircraft, canceling flights, and even dissolving its board of directors. This turmoil comes after seeking guidance from Ernst & Young, a prominent consulting firm, on the possibility of entering voluntary administration, a form of bankruptcy.

The situation began to unravel on May 6, according to Alain Lew, the former chairman of the board. The Vanuatu government, facing mounting financial pressures within the airline, approached Ernst & Young to explore different options. This decision closely followed an insolvency claim filed against Air Vanuatu by a lessor, further highlighting the airline’s financial woes.

The immediate consequences for passengers are significant. Air Vanuatu has been forced to cancel approximately 20 flights to Australia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand, with cancellations extending through May 12. The fate of flights beyond that date remains unclear, leaving many travelers in limbo.

In an attempt to manage the crisis, the Vanuatu government released a statement on May 8. The statement acknowledged the possibility of placing Air Vanuatu in voluntary administration and confirmed the appointment of Ernst & Young. Their role will be to meticulously evaluate the airline’s financial health and present recommendations to the government on the best course of action.

Mounting Financial Pressures and a Looming Crisis

This situation exposes a deeper financial struggle that Air Vanuatu has been grappling with for some time. Last month, Vanuatu’s finance minister downplayed rumors of the airline’s instability, calling them mere “rumor-mongering on Facebook.” However, he acknowledged long-standing challenges that the airline had been facing.

Adding another layer of complexity is the absence of Air Vanuatu’s sole jet, a Boeing 737-800. The aircraft has been grounded since January for a critical C-check in Melbourne, Australia. To maintain some semblance of operation, Air Vanuatu has resorted to wet-leasing aircraft from Nauru Airlines and Solomon Airlines.

Further complicating matters, a legal battle lost by Air Vanuatu in 2018 has recently resurfaced. The judgment, only released in February 2024, revealed that the airline had unsuccessfully appealed a hefty VUV150 million (USD $1.25 million) judgment in favor of Isleno Leasing Co Ltd. This failed appeal likely played a role in Isleno’s decision to initiate liquidation proceedings against Air Vanuatu on May 2.

With the arrival of Ernst & Young representatives in Port Vila, a period of intense financial scrutiny has begun for Air Vanuatu. The consulting firm will work closely with the Vanuatu government and the airline’s remaining team to assess the situation and determine the best path forward. The future of Air Vanuatu hangs in the balance, with the outcome impacting not only the airline’s employees and passengers but also Vanuatu’s vital tourism industry.

Tolga Karadeniz


  • Tolga Karadeniz

    Tolga is a dedicated aviation enthusiast with years of experience in the industry. From an early age, his fascination with aviation went beyond a mere passion for travel, evolving into a deliberate exploration of the complex mechanics and engineering behind aircraft. As a writer, he aims to share insights , providing readers with a view into the complex inner workings of the aviation industry.

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