A country in the South Pacific, Fiji is known for its beautiful beaches, great diving and tropical island life. However, most Americans think Fiji is out of reach. “Much of the US market sees Fiji as an exotic destination that is too far away and too expensive,” said Andre Viljoen, CEO and Managing Director of Fiji Airways. “The reality is quite the opposite – we have regular, easy connections from the west coast to Nadi, our tourist hub – and we are cheaper than comparable destinations such as Tahiti or Hawaii.” He explains that Fiji Airways is taking steps to be more visible in the mid-market segment of the US as a viable choice when Americans make their next vacation plan.
We spoke with Viljoen about the changing demographics of the airlines, the new fleet and the future for the company.
Fiji not just for luxury travellers
People often think of Fiji as a luxury market – what demographic is Fiji Airways targeting?
The US middle income market is a major focus for us going forward. We see a lot of untapped potential for tourists from the middle-income sector. We currently fly to Los Angeles and San Francisco, and across the border to Vancouver in Canada and while demand on these routes is very encouraging, there is potential to fill many more seats from the US to Fiji.
Much of the US market sees Fiji as an exotic destination that is too far away and too expensive. The reality is quite the opposite – we have regular, easy connections from the west coast to Nadi, our tourist center – and we are cheaper than comparable destinations such as Tahiti or Hawaii. Fiji Airways is now making strides in becoming more visible in the US mid-market as a viable choice when Americans make their next vacation plan.
Fiji Airways goals for 2023
What are the goals for Fiji Airways this year?
This year marks our journey to become a world-class airline as judged by the Airline Passenger Experience Association (APEX). We made a public commitment on Fiji Day (October 10, 2022) that we, as the flag carrier, will join the ranks of an elite group of airlines recognized above all others. Since then, we have made continuous improvements to our onboard products and services, as well as every other customer touchpoint, to demonstrate the qualities expected of a world-class airline.
The airline has invested heavily in staff training and development and has explored many facets of product and service development to take the business to the next level. In fact, over the past five years, we have systematically elevated Fiji Airways to stand alongside giants in the industry and achieve the APEX five-star rating for major airlines.
Speaking of the new plane
Fiji Airways is in the process of purchasing two additional Airbus A350s to add to our fleet. We currently have two of these modern aircraft and they work well for us in terms of our global network. The A350s are considered the most modern aircraft in the world with high efficiency, lower emissions and increased passenger and cargo capacity. These new aircraft allow us to increase the number of seats offered on some of our routes where demand is high. In the long term, it gives us the opportunity to explore the growth and expansion of our global network.
What’s it like on Fiji Airways?
Our commitment to providing high-quality services – not just on board, but at every point of customer perception – is at the heart of who we are. This is what sets Fiji Airways apart from our competitors. We have invested heavily over the years in staff development, leadership training and instilling a culture of service throughout the company, whether senior managers or frontline personnel. This led the company to be elevated five years ago from a three-star airline to being awarded the APEX Five Star Major Airline award for 2023, as well as the APEX Five Star Major Airline Asia/Pacific 2023. We have also won awards for the best onboard staff, best seat comfort, best business class meals and a host of other international recognitions that are a testament to our service vision of working as one to consistently deliver exceptional Fiji experiences. It is thanks to the determination and tenacity of our employees that we were able to reach these new heights and stand among the giants of the aviation industry.
Visitor numbers look good, post covid
Talk about Fiji’s recovery from Covid?
In 2022, the Fiji Airways Group carried a total of 1.3 million passengers, and advance bookings for the 6-month period from January to June 2023 are 41.6% higher than the same period in 2019. It is a remarkable achievement that in our first full year after the COVID-19 pandemic, with some key markets still closed and a challenging global operating environment, we managed to carry more than 1 million passengers.
Our full year 2023 forecast is to carry 2 million passengers. This is beyond what we could have imagined when borders reopened and flights resumed on December 1, 2020. We were pleasantly surprised by the demand for travel to Fiji. Within months, we had returned to 70 percent of our international markets, and currently only Hong Kong and Narita in Japan remain closed. We will return to these destinations in April 2023.
Family and Multi-Generation Travel to Fiji
Talk about traveling with kids on Fiji Airways
Fiji Airways has developed (in-house) a children’s package on board that is also internationally recognised. The kit aims to educate travelers between the ages of 2 and 12 about the importance of preserving and protecting Fiji’s beautiful yet fragile marine environment by telling the story of Saboo the sea turtle and his ocean friends. Each set includes a storybook, sticker pad, puzzle and finger puppet in a colorful beach bag. These awards place Fiji Airways among the safest and most family-friendly airlines in the world –– and we are grateful to every passenger for this recognition.
Sustainability in Fiji
What are some sustainability projects Fiji Airways
Inspired by the success of the children’s backpack, we have launched a tour that allows you to have a fascinating day planting mangroves and exploring a turtle sanctuary. You get to hand feed the sea turtles before entering the land and marine building which houses live corals, tropical fish, various species of Fijian insects, moths and butterflies, shells and freshwater fish.
What is the background of Fiji Airways?
Fiji Airways Group, founded in 1951, consists of Fiji Airways and Fiji Link and serves 108 destinations in more than 15 countries (including codeshare). Destinations include Fiji, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK, Hong Kong (China SAR), Singapore, India, Japan, China, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. The Fiji Airways Group attracts 70 percent of all visitors flying to Fiji, employs more than 1,000 people and aims to exceed FJD$1.5 billion (USD$680 million) in revenue by 2023.