May 15, 2012

New Zealand Herald: Air Pacific returning to original Fiji brand

By Grant Bradley
5:30 AM Tuesday May 15, 2012

Air Pacific is hoping a new name and new look will reverse its fortunes.

It is reverting to its original name Fiji Airways - last used in 1970 - and getting new planes for its long-haul routes.

Air New Zealand has a small stake in the carrier, which has plunged into the red during the past two years, buffeted by fallout from the global financial crisis, increased competition and soaring fuel prices.

Its managing director and chief executive, David Pflieger, said he didn't understand why the airline did not make more of its national identity when he started work two years ago.

"It's something I didn't understand when I first got here, Pflieger said.

"We're the national airline, we carry people to and from Fiji, we're a destination airline - we need to be a flying billboard."

Last year the airline reported an operating loss of F$3.6 million ($2.5 million) compared with a F$91.8 million loss the year before.

It flies 12 times a week to New Zealand, as well as running services to other Pacific countries, Australia, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.

A report by the Sydney-based Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation last year found that while still the largest carrier in the Fiji market, Air Pacific has struggled to compete since the arrival in 2009 of Virgin Australia and Qantas subsidiary Jetstar, and has seen a 51 per cent erosion of its market share.

The airline says it retains more than a 60 per cent share of visitor traffic to Fiji.

Pflieger, a former US military and commercial pilot, started work two years ago and has launched major restructuring.

The Fijian Government owns 51 per cent, Qantas 46.3 per cent, Air New Zealand 1.94 per cent, Kiribati 0.27 per cent, Tonga 0.27 per cent, Samoa 0.15 per cent, and Nauru 0.08 per cent.

The new livery and brand will be launched in July and phased in during the next 18 months.

The airline's two Boeing 747-400s will be replaced by three new Airbus A330-200s, due to be delivered in 2013.

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