Exclusive: Fiji Airways eyes more international routes as latest A350s join the fleet

by James Wilkinson

It’s an exciting time for Fiji Airways, with the carrier acquiring more Airbus A350s and winning major awards from organisations across the globe. To find out what’s next for the brilliant boutique airline, James Wilkinson sat down with Fiji Airways Managing Director and CEO, Andre Viljoen.

Andre, thanks for your time. You now have your 3rd and 4th A350-900s in the fleet. The plane has spectacular range. Which new destinations are you considering to send the jets to?

The new A350 aircrafts have allowed for an additional 30,000 seats per month across our network. These aircraft service our popular destinations including North American long-haul routes, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong, providing greater travel options and connections for Australians.

We’re exploring growth opportunities in North America and flying to further destinations. There are numerous options on the table at the moment and we are conducting due diligence to see which destination makes the best business case for expanding our network.

Which existing destinations will also get an up-gauge of aircraft to the A350?

The new A350s fly to the following existing destinations: Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Hong Kong, San Francisco and Vancouver. Increasing capacity on these flights by 30,000 seats per month.

This also frees-up A330s. Where could we see them soon? I know they are now scheduled for Christchurch, alongside additional Auckland flights as well as Melbourne.

Australia, New Zealand and the US are our most popular tourist destinations, therefore where possible we operate our larger aircraft so we can increase capacity, welcoming more travellers onboard and transporting them to paradise.

You have also added a third Sydney flight with the 737 MAX. Tell us more about your plans for Australia, including potential new destinations?

We’re (Fiji Airways) exploring several additional destinations in Australia. Our current schedule is 14 to 18 weekly flights from Sydney, 10 weekly flights from Melbourne, eight weekly flights from Brisbane, three weekly flights from Canberra and two weekly flights from Adelaide.

You have just launched Noumea, hot on the back of the new Canberra flights. Where else are you looking at in the South Pacific?

We have the most comprehensive network in the South Pacific and the Noumea flights are a demonstration of our commitment to connect this region to the world. As with the rest of the world, we are exploring a number of potential new routes in the South Pacific.

When we last spoke, you flagged a desire to go double daily on Los Angeles – how are these plans looking?

We are currently operating daily flights to Los Angeles on our A350 aircraft. We will continue to look at the demand and forward bookings to determine if we can increase the frequency of these flights.

Congrats on the 5-star rating for a second year in a row too. How significant is this award?

This achievement is no small feat, especially for a national airline of our size, located in the remote South Pacific.

We have worked tirelessly to maintain the highest standards of service and safety, and we are thrilled to once again be recognised as an APEX Five Star Major Airline, especially being one of just ten carriers to be honoured with the award for 2024.

As you know, reaching a milestone is hard-work, but maintaining it is another story. This shows that Fiji Airways is continuously and consistently enhancing its products and services.

You have been building up Fiji Airways into one of the world’s best boutique airlines. You have to be proud of what yourself and the team have achieved?

We are immensely proud of our recent accolades and the international recognition our National Airline has received. It’s a testament to the dedication, grit and tenacity of our team to continue to innovate and provide the highest standard of offerings to our guests.

We have made great strides as an airline over the recent years and it shows our strength and ability to bounce back following the pandemic. I believe it’s because we bring our genuine Fijian Hospitality to every customer perception point.

I also want to point out that the team at Fiji Airways is the reason for our success, they are some of the most motivated and ambitious colleagues I have had the pleasure to work with. Their talents are on-par with the best in the business – if not par above.

Thanks for having our Wayfarer TV show on the planes. You’ve also been upping the IFE ante with new big partnerships. What’s the latest?

We have just announced several major sports sponsorships for 2024, including welcoming the Melbourne Storm as a new Australian partner, marking our first NRL partnership. We also have sponsorships with the LA Galaxy and closer to home, Fiji based Kaviti SIlktails and increasing our sponsorship for the Fijian Drua.

In terms of new in-flight additions, we have recently launched Disney and HBO as part of our in-flight entertainment, meaning guests will experience the best entertainment offerings in the region, as well as wellness content such as guided meditation, breathwork and exercises that are accessible throughout the flight.

Additionally, we are introducing IFE streaming services to our regional flights on the ATR aircraft and our Boeing 737-NG. Guests will be able to stream the full suite of our inflight entertainment catalogue direct to their personal devices from December this year while Business Class guests will get a new generation iPad Pro for their use during the flight.

You’ve also added more in-resort check-ins. Tell us about this.

We now offer resort check-in at multiple locations including the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa, Sheraton Fiji Golf and Beach Resort, InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort and Spa and most recently the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort and Spa.

This allows guests to check into their International Fiji Airways flights (excluding those to the USA) at the resort, with their bags tagged and transported directly to the airport, while they have more time to enjoy Fiji.

I’m looking forward to announcing more properties with resort check-in very soon.

What’s next for Fiji Airways? More A350s? More 737s? Where do you see the airline in another five years?

We will continue to offer exceptional service and revamp our onboard experiences for travellers across safety, well-being, sustainability, and inclusiveness. We have set ourselves a target of achieving World Class Status and it continues to be our North Star as we endeavour to join an elite group of airlines recognised as the best in the world.

As an airline our customers and travellers come first so we want to be able to offer them greater connections and options for visiting friends and family or holidays. Therefore we are always exploring options to operate longer sectors and increasing our network across North America, Asia and the Pacific.

Fiji Airways has one of the world’s youngest and most modern fleet of 21 aircraft that service our network of 26 destinations. For the time-being, this suits our needs adequately but we continue to plan and strategise for the future in order to ensure the sustained growth of the airline.

As the National Airline, we are also focussed on ensuring that the Fijian people, the tourism sector and the local economy, reaps the maximum benefits because We Fly for Fiji. Post COVID-19, we are now returning to a number of initiatives that we championed to help local communities. Our successes must be shared with the country in a tangible and meaningful manner.