Air Vanuatu has announced the continued upgrade of its fleet is entering another stage with the planned lease of a new ATR72-600.
The aircraft, which is expected to be ordered in 2016 will continue to operate domestic and regional routes including Fiji and New Caledonia and will hopefully open new markets as well, potentially Noumea-Santo if demand increases.
Chief Executive Officer Joseph Laloyer said the airline had endured a difficult year, exasperated by TC Pam and the downturn in visitor numbers to Vanuatu.
“We have, like all businesses, reduced costs where possible. For us this has meant consolidating scheduled flights both internationally and in the domestic market where demand has significantly decreased.”
Mr. Laloyer said the reduced demand has meant the need for two ATR72-500 aircraft is no longer present and a decision has been made to sell both aircraft.
“We are in the final stages of negotiating with a buyer to sell our second ATR-72 which will see that aircraft withdraw from operations immediately.
“Our original ATR-72 will also be sold, however we will lease this aircraft back from the new owners until such time as the replacement ATR72-600 arrives,” Mr. Laloyer said.
The sale of both aircraft will provide a much needed cash-injection to the airline, reducing the liability exposures and respond to the reduced demand in the domestic and regional market.
“Our codeshare agreement with Fiji Airways ensures the seven flights a week between Vanuatu and Fiji will continue as normal and we do not expect to see a further reduction in domestic services whilst demand remains steady.”
The ATR 72-600 benefits from the widest cabin in the turboprop market, with the new Armonia cabin, new ergonomic design for greater comfort, new seats and wider overhead bins with 30% more roller bags stowage.
In addition, with the RTO (Reserve Take-Off) option, the aircraft can increase take-off weight and payload up to 1,000 Kg on challenging airports with very short runways. The ATR 72-600 is the lowest seat per mile cost aircraft on the 70 seat segment, thanks to significantly lower fuel and maintenance costs compared to its competitors.