The failed state of Vanuatu’s shoddy runway at the Bauerfield, Port Vila airport has finally become evident to Virgin Australia, which like Qantas and its main shareholder, Air New Zealand, is now taking its jets home until things get fixed.
Qantas and Air New Zealand took fright over the risks earlier this week, as the runway showed increasing signs of breaking up and threatening undercarriages and control surfaces that could have been hit by lumps of stuff from the crumbling tarmac.
The concerns at Qantas were such that it wouldn’t even sell its customers a code shared flight on Air Vanuatu, which spoke at loud volume about its unhappiness with the situation.
So if you are thinking of flying there on an Air Vanuatu jet, take counsel, and check your travel insurance fine print.
The last Virgin Australia flight will depart Port Vila for Brisbane on Saturday.
The immediate suspension of outbound flights to the beautiful South Pacific archipelago is of course a tragedy for its tourism industry, but the indifference of its authorities to a long running, and most recently, rapidly deteriorating situation is a very, very poor reflection on the quality of public administration and political diligence in the tiny republic.
They have screwed the pooch, to use a term of notable relevance to another disgraceful story in today’s Australian headlines.
The issue for the Australian and New Zealand airlines is that of a jet suffering sufficient damage to strand it on the island. The only way to get such a damaged jet repaired would be to park it until the runway was sufficiently stuck back together to take a relief and repair flight landing, so that it could be rendered safe to send back empty to a maintenance base.
Virgin Australia was the last Australian or New Zealand airline to apparently come to such a conclusion. No doubt some other less concerned carriers might have a go at maintaining jet services. Port Vila is also served by turbo-props from Fiji and Noumea.
Vanuatu deserves much better than this. But the often repeated accusations that some of its political figures help themselves more than they help the country have come true in so far as the runway is concerned, as an offer from abroad to fund its repairs last year ran into difficulties that have not been lucidly explained.