Air Vanuatu (NF, Port Vila) has announced that from April 2020, it will be building a northern domestic hub in Espiritu Santo with enhanced connectivity to the Torba, Penama and Malampa provinces of the South Pacific archipelago. The airline will also establish an MRO base at the airport.

“We hope to see more non-stop flights and better connections to and from the islands of the northern provinces," Derek Nice, Air Vanuatu's Chief Executive Officer, said. "This means our customers will soon see shorter journey times and fewer disruptions.” In time the airline plans to open a crew base in Espirito Santo and it hopes to make the airport a major hub for its operations.

“We welcome the national airline’s announcement and look forward to supporting the airline in developing Santo Airport as another domestic hub," said Jason Rakau, Chief Executive Officer, Airports Vanuatu Limited (AVL). "This new domestic hub will enable our northern provinces to get better access to the benefits associated with aviation and we look forward to seeing an increase in aviation and tourism activity as a result of these new developments.”

To provide same-day connections between multiple islands, the engineering facility will service the permanently based DHC-6-300 which will be stationed at the airport from April. The facility will also ensure improved engineering cover for the carrier's ATR72-600, as well as the incoming A220s it has on order.

A similar change will occur in the carrier's southbound operations into Tafea Province, with Tanna becoming the hub for small aircraft services to and from other southern ports such as Dillon's Bay and Aneityum. Air Vanuatu currently offers 850 weekly seats and 20 weekly flights to five domestic destinations from Tanna, the ch-aviation schedules module shows.

“We are working hard with AVL to overcome limitations so that we can satisfy the hubbing opportunities throughout our domestic network,” said Wotlolan Lobu, General Manager Airports, Air Vanuatu. “We are especially supportive of AVL’s plans to install runways lighting at Tanna Airport, which will allow us to operate the ATR72 aircraft after dark, so that we can increase the number of flights.”

Air Vanuatu operates a small fleet of six aircraft, made up of one ATR72-600, one B737-300 (wet-leased from Nauru Airlines (Australia)), one B737-800, three DHC-6-300s, and a single BN-2. The airline already flies to 16 domestic destinations from Espirito Santo, including a 19x weekly service to the capital city, Port Vila.