Qantas and Jetstar are looking to move in on Australia-Vanuatu services following the collapse of flag carrier Air Vanuatu.

The Flying Kangaroo has applied for 1,798 seats per week in each direction for five years, with plans to start Qantas services in August and Jetstar services in October.

The move will put Qantas in competition with Virgin Australia, currently the only airline operating Australia-Vanuatu flights.

“From August 2024, Qantas plans to operate services utilising a combination of Qantas’ Boeing 737 aircraft configured with 174 seats and Embraer E190 aircraft configured with 97 seats under a wet lease arrangement with Alliance Airlines,” Anna Pritchard, Qantas’ executive manager of government, industry and competition, wrote to the International Air Services Commission (IASC).

“During periods of peak demand, Qantas plans to operate up to five weekly services using the Boeing 737. From October 2024, Jetstar plans to operate up to four weekly services using Airbus A321 NEO aircraft configured with 232 seats.”

The news comes just weeks after Air Vanuatu went into voluntary liquidation earlier this month owing at least $99 million AUD, according to its liquidators Ernst and Young. The airline abruptly cancelled all international flights a fortnight ago, leaving passengers stranded.

Air Vanuatu codeshares with Qantas on daily flights from Sydney to Port Vila, four flights per week from Brisbane to Port Vila, and three flights per week from Melbourne to Port Vila, as well as weekly services from Brisbane to Santo operated for Air Vanuatu by Solomon Airlines.

The Flying Kangaroo has advised customers on affected codeshare flights to contact Qantas.

Air Vanuatu has been experiencing maintenance difficulties with its only jet aircraft, a Boeing 737-800, which has not flown since January. The airline also operates an ATR 72-600 for inter-island travel.

In a March statement, Air Vanuatu said it was leaning heavily on contracted Solomon Airlines flights and another 737 leased from Nauru Airlines.

“While the airline continues to operate over 70 per cent of its current scheduled international flights, it is doing so in a challenging environment, with the airline’s sole Boeing 737 aircraft still awaiting parts and one of the contracted Solomon Airlines A320s now also requiring engineering works,” the statement read.

The only other route available from Vanuatu to Australia is a Virgin Australia service from Port Vila to Brisbane that commenced last year, operating up to five direct services during the peak season and three in the off-peak.

Qantas has been contacted for comment.