3 Jun 2016

Air NZ refusal to return to Vanuatu has minister's support

11:04 am on 3 June 2016
180714. Photo RNZ. Foreign Minister Murray McCully talking with media about the Mayalsia Airlines MH17 flight.

New Zealand's foreign minister Murray McCully. Photo: RNZ

New Zealand's Foreign Minister says he understands Air New Zealand's rationale for not resuming flights to Vanuatu.

In January, the airline announced it was suspending services to Port Vila because of the condition of the airport's runway.

The announcement saw the country's new government scramble to re-negotiate a World Bank loan to carry out emergency repairs, which were completed in April.

Virgin Australia has resumed its service, but Air New Zealand refuses to, saying a permanent solution needs to be designed and funded in order for it to return.

Murray McCully, who flew into Port Vila on Wednesday afternoon on an Air Force flight, said the airline was looking for certainty.

"They want to see some certainty that the flights will continue to run, they don't want to take bookings that they have to then cancel," said Mr McCully.

"The maintenance work that's being done will keep this in operation for another 12-18 months or so, no problem at all. But the horizon that we're looking at is longer than that - you can't just turn flights on and off.

"I understand perfectly that they've got commercial decisions to make."

Murray McCully said safety has to be paramount, and he was encouraging the Vanuatu government to make those decisions about the airport's future.

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