20 October, 2010 -  Vanuatu's national airline, Air Vanuatu, has embarked on a major expansion programme , centred on its newest aircraft, a 68-seat ATR 72-500 turboprop airliner.

Since replacing a 45-seat ATR 42-300 late last year, the larger, more efficient aircraft has been used to boost capacity on existing domestic services, as well as increasing by 33% the airline's seat availability to Noumea in the neighbouring nation of New Caledonia.

Now, Air Vanuatu is working with regulatory authorities to introduce ATR 72-500 flights to more destinations, the most promising being service between Vanuatu and Fiji. More domestic island destinations are also being considered.

 "The ATR 72-500 has been a welcome addition to our fleet, increasing passenger numbers and comfort," said Air Vanuatu's Chief Executive, Joseph Laloyer.

"The aircraft has allowed us to increase capacity to Noumea, and we are looking at other regional ports, which previously we were restricted from doing," he said.

"The aircraft has proven very popular with our passengers and we are pleased with its steady growth."

Air Vanuatu's total domestic passenger traffic has increased by 10 per cent since late last year when the brightly-coloured ATR 72-500 arrived in the South Pacific from the ATR production line in Toulouse, Southern France.

In the same period, the carrier has achieved an impressive 33 per cent saving on costs including fuel and aircrew, while also reducing significantly its carbon dioxide emissions, thanks to the increased efficiency and lower environmental impact of the ATR 72-500.

Using the ATR 72-500, Air Vanuatu has also been able to offer more seats for passengers connecting to and from its longer international sectors between the national capital Port Vila and destinations including Australia and New Zealand.

And for domestic passengers, there have been even more seats available, due not only to the increased size of the ATR 72-500 over its predecessor, but also the ability of the larger aircraft to continue to access regional airports. .

Although airstrips at some destinations are shorter or narrower than at larger destinations, a key benefit to Air Vanuatu of the ATR 72-500 is its ability to land on strips as short as 1100 metres or just 14 metres wide.

Air Vanuatu also has greater operating flexibility and increased safety margins due to the ability of the larger ATR 72-500 to carry additional fuel, enabling the airline to accommodate diversions to more alternate airfields as required.

ATR Director of Sales for Australasia and Pacific Islands, Guillaume Huertas, said turboprop airliners were continuing to gain popularity, not just with airlines but with passengers.

"Today's turboprop aircraft consume much less fuel and produce less carbon emissions than comparable-size regional jets, or older turboprop equipment," said Mr Huertas.

"They also offer cabin comfort equal to or better than most jets, delivering the highest standards not just on medium to long haul routes but also on shorter journeys, regardless of whether these are between key cities in major markets or the smaller regional communities of the Pacific."

ATR is the world's leading manufacturer of 50-74 seat regional turboprop airliners, having sold more than 1000 ATR 42 and ATR 72 aircraft, which are used by over 160 operators in 90 countries. At 1 October this year, ATR had a backlog of more than 150 aircraft on order.

These include 98 of the next generation ATR series – 600 family – 93  ATR 72-600s and five ATR 42-600s.

ATR is certified to ISO 14001, the worldwide standard for environmental management and sustainability. 

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