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How to buy a plane: shopping for aircraft with Air Vanuatu

It’s like taking a car for a test drive, writes GAYA AVERY, onboard a demonstration flight of the A220 with Air Vanuatu boss Derek Nice. The views are just much, much better.

Air Vanuatu has been on the hunt for new aircraft to add to its fleet. But just how do you go about choosing the right planes for your airline? Traveltalk posed this question to Air Vanuatu chief executive Derek Nice.



“It has been and is a very rigorous process that began more than a year ago and it started with a shortlist of potential aircraft,” he said.


“We evaluated the costs of the aircraft, the passenger appeal, the maintenance, fuel consumption, environmental factors and also the total package in terms of the support for pilot training, cabin service and so on.”


The A220 ticked the boxes for the carrier and Nice says the purchase of four of the aircraft “is going to make Vanuatu an aviation leader”.


We are on an A220 demonstration flight checking out the product with the Prime Minister of the Republic of Vanuatu Charlot Salwai Tabimasmas  and, direct from Toulouse, France, Airbus executive vice president commercial Christopher Buckley.



Buckley gave credit to Air Vanuatu who, he said “I think is being perceived by other airlines now as a bit of a showcase for the aircraft in the region”.


As Air Vanuatu isn’t due to receive its first A220 until June next year, we’re actually on an airBaltic jet - an unexpected sight in the Pacific - flying from Port Vila to Espiritu Santo. The Latvian carrier, launch operator and proud owner of 20 A220s (with another 30 on order and an option for 30 more) is the clear poster child for the A220.


airBaltic chief pilot Captain Gerhard Ramcke has been flying the A220 since they were released onto the market and told Traveltalk why the plane has had such success. 


“[The A220 is] a brand new development on the market. If you think about the Boeing 737s and the Airbus 320s , which are the common standard single aisle on the market, they are all very old. Even if you get one brand new from the production line, the Airbus was designed 30 years ago and the Boeing 737 50 years ago. The A220 is brand new.” 



“When it comes to the technology, it is state of the art: fly by wire, big screens, the features on the screen (the detailing on the maps for example). It’s extraordinary.”


Onboard, I’m taken aback by how bright the cabin is and how big it feels. It has all the comforts of a wide body in a single aisle cabin. 


There’s enough room in the overhead compartments for a roller bag for every passenger, the windows are a big 11in x 16in, which makes the cabin super bright, it has the largest cabin in its class, the highest ceiling in its class, the quietest cabin in its class, vertical sidewalls and the widest economy seats of any single aisle aircraft. 



A sudden burst of water hammers the shell of the plane. I look out the window and see that we’ve been greeted with a water gun salute as we arrive into Santo-Pekoa Airport, Espiritu Santo.


As we get out, it’s clear we’re all pretty impressed by the plane. Maybe if we all pooled our resources... How much does a plane go for these days?


Traveltalk is in Vanuatu to preview the new A220 aircraft.

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Written by: Gaya Avery
Published: 30 October 2019

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