Air Vanuatu Announces a New Way Forward

Air Vanuatu

Air Vanuatu’s newly appointed Board of Directors unveiled the airline’s future business strategy in an all-employee meeting at Port Vila Airport on Wednesday 28th May 2020.

The board has acknowledged the efforts made by all the employees in Vanuatu, Australia and New Zealand, from the flight crew and engineers to the front-line airport and sales personnel for their commitments during these challenging times.

Summarized by Chairman Sam Firi as “New Era, New Look”, the strategy focuses on a simplified organization, with a slimmer management team and the replacement of most expatriate managers by qualified Vanuatu nationals in specific positions, to be recommended by the Management. “We are returning Air Vanuatu to the people,” said Mr. Firi.

“We will do an overall review of our international and domestic operations and evaluate outsourcing of our maintenance department, known as Part 145. We are in discussion with the Civil Aviation Authority of Vanuatu and other stakeholders to facilitate these processes, in consultation with the management. We want to ensure that Air Vanuatu is self-sufficient in the long-run.”

Mr. Firi also revealed that the Board is re-evaluating the airline’s fleet strategy, placing on hold plans to take delivery of new Airbus A220 aircraft later this year, taking into consideration the COVID-19 economic crisis and the closure of international borders.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, Air Vanuatu will move forward with earlier plans to restructure its workforce, starting June 2020.

“The airline will identify those employees who are Essential Full-Time Staff, Essential Part-Time Staff, and those employees who will be placed on Leave Without Pay with the Government employment stimulus package. The changes will be rolled out in separate meetings with all employee groups over the course of the coming few days,” says Wilma Vocor, General Manager Human Resources.

Firi continued, “I am heartened by our government’s commitment to provide the financial support that will ensure Air Vanuatu can emerge from the current crisis. The board I lead today will continue to work closely with the management and staff, especially in these unprecedented times. We will get through this together, in the spirit of Vanuatu.”

Earlier in the meeting, Chief Executive Officer Derek Nice announced that he has decided not to renew his contract when it expires on June 25.

In his message to the employees, Mr. Nice stressed the pride he felt in having led the Air Vanuatu team through a period of tremendous change and accomplishment. “It has been an honor to work with such a strong group of passionate and committed airline professionals,” he said. “Together we returned the airline to profitability, implemented robust succession plans, grew our share of the South Pacific tourism market, and mapped a route to growth and continued future success.

“I’ve made this decision in the best interests of the company, giving the new Board of Directors the freedom to implement the new directives mandated by the shareholders in the Vanuatu Government to make the changes they believe are needed to ensure our recovery.”

Mr. Nice’s departure marks the return of former CEO Mr. Joseph Laloyer, who will take over as Acting CEO while the board finalizes the recruitment of a new Chief Executive Officer.

Laloyer previously worked with the airline for over 30 years, last serving as CEO in 2018.