There is growing concern about the safety of a number of smaller airports around the South Pacific. It’s a problem that’s been highlighted by both the World Bank and the International Civil Aviation Organization. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.
Three major airlines have suspended flights to the Pacific island of Vanuatu because of infrastructure issues at the airport. That word from the Nikkei Asian Review, quoting the head of flight operations for Air New Zealand saying the airline stopped flights “before the situation becomes unsafe.” Qantas and Virgin Australia took similar action, and that’s taking a toll on visitor arrivals.
The World Bank says tourism makes up nearly a quarter of Vanuatu’s Gross Domestic Product. The country’s airport issues were complicated by damages from Cyclone Pam nearly a year ago…and the heavy traffic of military planes and flights from international aid organizations that followed.
Plus, Vanuatu’s government has been in chaos---four months ago, half the cabinet was sentenced to jail on corruption charges. Radio New Zealand reports the new prime minister says repairing the runway is a top priority—and he’s seeking a $1.2 million dollar loan from the World Bank to complete the work by April. The World Bank and the International Civil Aviation Organization have been cautious about other regional airports. The ICAO says airport conditions are even worse than Vanuatu’s in the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, the Solomon Islands and Tonga….while Fiji is below the global average for airports.