Fiji’s national airline, Fiji Airways, has announced it plans to grow to grow network-wide capacity by more than a third (35 per cent) and increase passenger numbers by 39 per cent over the next five years as part of a major investment in new aircraft. The bold expansion targets were revealed as the carrier outlined some of the key components within a new five-year strategic plan which was approved by its Board in mid-December 2013.
Expanding the airline’s route network through key airline partnerships, increasing operating profits and passenger numbers, as well as growing the number of aircraft and available seats, are just some of the key focus areas for Fiji Airways within this plan. According to Stefan Pichler, managing director and chief executive officer of Fiji Airways, this is the first time that a strategic plan for the airline was developed bottom up from the management and with input from its customers, people and stakeholders.
“This is our plan, we believe in it and we will make it happen. This is what we want to deliver by building and performing under a highly inspirational global brand – Fiji Airways,” he said. “It is our aim is to be a world class boutique airline and we must match that with an ambitious but solid financial growth plan which expands on current successes and takes our airline to a new level.”
The plan outlines a fleet growth of around 25 per cent as four new aircraft are introduced through purchase or lease agreements by 2017. These will comprise one Airbus A330-200 widebody, two Boeing B737-800s and two ATR72-600 regional turboprops, one of which will act as a direct replacement for a smaller ATR 42-500. Proposed capacity increases across the regions include Asia (144 per cent), Pacific Islands (86.6 per cent), New Zealand (58.9 per cent), Australia (28.4 per cent) and Domestic (12.3 per cent), while the current seat availability to the US will see a small decline (- 4.7 per cent).
Pichler says the airline will put in place an aggressive financial performance strategy to increase operating profits above $100m (FJD), which have been planned assuming fuel prices and currency exchange rates at the current levels. “We need to be sustainably profitable and have a healthy cash flow to pay off our debts and fund new aircraft,” he said.
The airline has already announced three schedule changes resulting from the plan - new direct Sydney-Suva and Apia-Suva services to open up the East Coast to holiday makers and business travellers alike; and an amendment to some Auckland – Nadi departure times to improve ferry and flight connections with the Outer Islands.
“In terms of our network expansion plans, we will not be taking a ‘trial and error’ approach,” said Pichler. “We are focused on the deliberate selection of new routes together with the best airline partnerships. Selection and timings of new routes will depend on detailed scheduling studies together with interlining and code-sharing opportunities, and we will announce these as they are finalised.”