How to get to Vanuatu on points, including Mount Yasur – 2020 update and a great Etihad Guest trick

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How to get to Vanuatu with miles / points

Vanuatu is a chain of volcanic islands in the South Pacific west of Fiji, and a thousand miles north of Australia.

In this article we’ll tell you how to get to Vanuatu, and specifically, how to get to Vanuatu using points and miles. First though, here’s how to get to Tanna Island from Vanuatu.

Tanna Island, home of the impressive active volcano Mount Yasur, is usually reached with a flight from Port Vila, capital of Vanuatu on the island of Efate.

There are scheduled flights with Air Vanuatu daily.

Tour operators offering flight tours to Yasur with overnight stays on Tanna include Air Taxi Vanuatu and Unity Airlines. Air Taxi are known to sometimes sell empty seats on a tour flight to independent travellers, for around 10,000VUV (£65) each way.

See our guide to visiting Mount Yasur. If your plans allow it, it’s often a better deal to fly with a package tour operator.

Once you land at Whitegrass airport on Tanna, it will cost your around 2000VUV each for a car ride to the town of Lenakel, or 5000 VUV to get to Yasur.

The joy of small airports and even smaller aircraft is getting up close and personal.

One of the aircraft used by Air Vanuatu for the flight between Bauerfield and Whitegrass is a tiny De Havilland Twin Otter which will allow you to get up close and personal with the pilots. I sat so close I could have reached out and adjusted the radio…

air vanuatu De Havilland Twin Otter vli airport port vila 2
Air Vanuatu De Havilland Twin Otter at Port Vila airport
air vanuatu De Havilland Twin Otter cockpit pilot
De Havilland Twin Otter cockpit pilot

Flights from Port Vila to Tanna

Air Vanuatu flies from Port VIla (VLI) to Tanna (TAH) twice a day. Flights are typically around 8 or 9am, and then 2 or 3pm.

Flights take 40 minutes on the ATR 42, or 1 hour on the De Havilland Twin Otter. Flights usually cost around £70 each way and can be booked directly at Air Vanuatu.

Air Vanuatu frequent flyer scheme

Air Vanuatu doesn’t have a frequent flyer program of its own but is a partner with Qantas. You can earn Qantas points on any flight with an Air Vanuatu flight number.

You’ll earn 400 Qantas points with a round trip between Port Vila and Tanna.

In theory you can also redeem Qantas points to book reward flights with Air Vanuatu, but you would have to call Qantas and in any case the cash price is low and it’s a 40 minute flight. It’s almost certainly not worth bothering with points given a cash rate of £70.

How to get to Vanuatu with points and miles

Typical routes into Vanuatu are from Australia or New Zealand direct to Port Vila, or via Fiji.

The proximity of Fiji and Vanuatu, along with regular and affordable flights between them and Australia, New Zealand, or other Pacific islands, makes this area a great option for a multi-centre holiday.

From Australia

Virgin Australia flies from Brisbane to Port Vila 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday) and can be booked online with Virgin Velocity points. Rates are 11,800 miles one way in economy, 23,500 in business. Taxes are around £45 each way.

This can be booked online at Virgin Australia.

You can also book the same flight using 6,900 Etihad Guest miles, or 13,800 in business. Taxes are similar to Virgin Australia. You have to find availability at Virgin Australia then call Etihad Guest to make a booking.

It can also be had for 20,000 Singapore Kris Flyer miles in economy, double that in business.

Qantas points can in theory be used to book Air Vanuatu flights from Syndey and Brisbane to Port Vila, but you have to call Qantas and availability is likely to be challenging due to the popularity of Vanuatu for Australian holidaymakers.

It’s 12,000/24,000 Qantas points from Brisbane to Port Vila. It is easier to find availability from Australia to Fiji.

bne to vli virgin australia
BNE to VLI on Virgin Australia with points

From Fiji

I used 21,800 Etihad Guest points to fly with Virgin Australia from Brisbane to Fiji in business class (also available for 35,500 Virgin Australia points).

I then had a few days at the excellent Shangri La Fijian Resort using Shangri La points I won in a competition, before flying with Fiji Airways to Port Vila for £134 cash in business (instead of using 16,000 Qantas points).

Fiji to Port Vila would be just 8000 Qantas points in economy one way, if you can find availability.

Brisbane to Fiji on Virgin Australia is 17,800 miles in economy, 35,500 in business, with taxes of around £45.
Brisbane to Fiji on Virgin Australia with Etihad Guest miles is 10,900 in economy, 21,800 in business, similar taxes.

There are flights between Brisbane and Fiji every day.

bne to nan virgin australia
BNE to NAN on Virgin Australia with points

From New Zealand

From New Zealand there are a few award routes to Fiji, where you can easily have a short break then pay cash for the flight onward to Vanuatu.

Options are Air New Zealand booked with Virgin Australia (10k), Cathay (10k), Singapore (12.5k) or Miles & More (15k). Double those for business class.

You can use Qantas for 18,000/36,000 miles economy/business from Auckland, if you can find availability.

Getting points to use

Singapore Kris Flyer miles can be obtained by transferring Amex MR points at 1 to 1.

You can transfer MR points into Virgin Flying Club miles also at 1 to 1, but Virgin Australia flights can’t be booked quite so easily with Virgin Flying Club miles. It would require 30,000 Virgin Flying Club miles to redeem for economy one-way between Brisbane and Vanuatu, 40,000 from Sydney or to Fiji.

This is not great value. Sadly UK Amex MR members can’t transfer directly to Virgin Australia.

A different option is to use Marriott Bonvoy points which can be transferred to Qantas or Virgin Australia at 3 to 1, or really 3 to 1.25 because there is a 5,000 point bonus when you transfer 60,000 points.

60,000 Bonvoy points would get you 25,000 Virgin Australia points, enough for a business class flight between Brisbane and Port Vila.

Be aware though, that cash rates in business with Virgin Australia from BNE to NAN (Fiji) or VLI (Vanuatu) are regularly as low as £300 on a business saver fare, which may be a better deal unless you happen to be swimming in Bonvoy points. They have frequent sales, too.

A business class bargain to Vanuatu with an Etihad Guest hack

Using 13,800 Etihad Guest miles for business class from Brisbane to Port Vila is attractive anyway, and is possible thanks to the distance-based redemption charts because Brisbane to Port Vila is just under the 1200 mile boundary.

The “hack” is that you can simply buy Etihad Guest miles for cash for significantly less than than if you paid cash for the flight.

You can buy 14,000 Etihad Guest miles for $280 US, or around £215. This is decent saving compared to the cheapest cash rates.

22,000 Etihad guest miles, enough for business class from Brisbane to Fiji, would cost £335. This is about the same as the cheapest cash fares. Remembering that you will earn miles on your cash fare it’s not such a good deal to buy points specifically for this trip. If you already have them, it’s a pretty good deal.

If there’s a bonus offer on buying Etihad Guest miles, then you’ll have a real bargain on your hands.

Booking

The page for booking, or just finding, Virgin Australia awards is here.

With Virgin Australia points you can book at the same site. To book with Etihad Guest miles, find availability at the above link then call Etihad Guest.

Virgin Australia redemption tables are here. BNE to NAN is a distance of 1688 miles, putting it in band 3. BNE to VLI narrowly makes it into band 2 at 1180 miles.

The Etihad Guest redemption tables for Virgin Australia are here.

Is Vanuatu worthwhile?

Oh yes. Read about a road trip around Vanuatu and how to visit to the incredible active volcano at Mount Yasur, or watch this short video which shows both:

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