Hundreds of New Zealand and Australian travellers are currently unable to fly to or from Vanuatu after the national airline’s sole 737 suffered mechanical issues - again.
For the second time this year, Air Vanuatu has reported that flights between Port Vila and Auckland are grounded until the middle of this week.
On Saturday, September 23, the airline told passengers to expect delays after its only Boeing 737 aircraft, which serves the mid-haul international services, was grounded.
At least 17 flights have been cancelled between Vanuatu and Auckland, Brisbane and Sydney.
“The cause of these disruptions is unscheduled technical work that is required on the aircraft,” said the airline in a statement.
“The airline appreciates that this breakdown is causing disruption to the travel plans of guests and Air Vanuatu recognizes the paramount importance of passenger safety and the integrity of its operations.”
Affected passengers are advised not to check out of their accommodation on the island until they have onward travel booked.
“In line with its policy, Air Vanuatu is covering the cost of accommodation and meals for those guests whose flights are affected.”
The airline advises stranded travellers to consider booking alternative travel arrangements if necessary. The only remaining links available to Kiwi passengers involve lengthy detours via Australia or Fiji.
One affected passenger, Caitlin Chang from Sydney, said she was left no choice but to cancel her Pacific Island trip.
“Our rescheduled flight won’t be until next Monday, two days before we’re supposed to fly home,” Caitlin Chang said in a post to Twitter, last night.
“This is the latest saga in our cursed holiday.
“Two weeks ago, we were told our hotel had gone bankrupt and was closing, so we had to book new accommodation - one week before school holidays.”
Passengers are advised not to check out of accommodation in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
737 woes continue
This is not the first time Air Vanuatu has had issues with its sole narrow-body passenger jet.
The plane was grounded for nearly a week in April, affecting Australian and Kiwi travellers, who couldn’t believe the island could be relying on one narrow-body aircraft to operate the routes.
Over Christmas and the busy summer travel window, it was hampered by separate issues with the 737 aircraft.
From December 18, the 7-year old Boeing 737-800, YJ-AV8 spent three days grounded for repairs, with long-reaching impacts for travellers.
The majority of Vanuatu’s 15,000 arrivals over Christmas and New Year were forced to travel by boat, according to RNZ Pacific.
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you