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By Marc Neil-Jones

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 7) – Vanair chief executive Meto Nganga has not had his contract renewed following the recent merger and takeover of the domestic airline by Air Vanuatu.

Nganga confirmed to Daily Post he had received a letter from Virelala regarding his employment contract and that it was with the board for a final decision. He refused to make any comment on the issue.

Jean Paul Virelala told Daily Post, "Meto has not been sacked or suspended. We have decided not to renew his contract following the acquisition of Vanair, which is now managed by Air Vanuatu effective January 1 this year. Air authorities do not allow one airline to have two CEOs; we no longer need his services. We have no problem or disagreement with him but Vanair is now under our management. The board will make their decision on the matter in due course."

Nganga and Virelala have been taking aim at each other since Nganga took over the ailing domestic airline a few years ago and started to turn it around financially while the proposed merger was on and off with every change in government.

Nganga who worked with Air Vanuatu as Personnel Manager for years was always against the merger and was critical of Air Vanuatu pushing to take over the domestic airline.

The antagonism continued when the two airlines merged a few years ago and then pulled out with Vanair claiming Air Vanuatu owed them money.

They also had major disagreements over the ATR aircraft and Nganga refused to utilise it while the airlines were separate entities.

He believed it was not in Vanair’s financial interests to pay Air Vanuatu to use the aircraft and was opposed to Air Vanuatu going into competition with Vanair on the profitable Tanna and Santo routes.

As seen by analysts, Virelala is removing Nganga to consolidate his power base to ensure the domestic airline is run the way Air Vanuatu wants it to without interference.

The board will make the final decision on Nganga at its next meeting.

Virelala stated that Air Vanuatu has taken full control over the management of Vanair and all staff should continue to work as normal while the merger of the two operations proceeds and advised in a press statement "There are no plans to re-brand Vanair at this stage but all suppliers with invoices for Vanair should forward them to Air Vanuatu accounts for settlement."

He advised: "Central to Air Vanuatu’s plans for the domestic network is additional capacity to be provided by the ATR42 to Santo and Tanna, with an emphasis on more friendly connecting times for overseas visitors, ensuring growth in tourism numbers to the outer islands."

January 10, 2005

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