Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Air Pacific flies back into the black

David Pflieger, Air Pacific managing director and CEO. Photo / Supplied
David Pflieger, Air Pacific managing director and CEO. Photo / Supplied

Air Pacific has bucked the trend of many airlines over the past year and turned around big losses and is now in the black.

The Fijian airline, which has been restructured and is undergoing rebranding and fleet replacement, reported an operating profit of $11.5 million for the year to March 31, compared with an operating loss of $2.6 million for the previous financial year.

Air Pacific's managing director and chief executive, Dave Pflieger, said the airline had benefited from a spike in tourist numbers during the past year.

The 670,000 visitors was an all-time record.

"This year we're on track to do just as well, if not better."

Air Pacific will rebrand and revert to its former name Fiji Airways, coinciding with the delivery of new Airbus A330-200 aircraft next year. The new livery and brand will be launched soon and phased in during the next 18 months. The airline's two Boeing 747-400s will be replaced by three new Airbus planes.

Pflieger said the airline had no plans to fly new routes at this time, with the new planes replacing older aircraft on existing routes.

Air Pacific has been hit by high fuel costs during the past year but has benefited from a fall in prices during the past two months as it does not hedge but pays the spot price.

The Fijian Government owns 51 per cent of Air Pacific, 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.

A board stoush came to a head last month when four Qantas directors quit after the Fijian Government moved to exert greater control.

Pflieger said friction between the two biggest shareholders had not affected operations.

"It's at a shareholder level. What Qantas does or doesn't do has no impact on the airline," he said. "For us it's business as usual.'

Air Pacific Group reported an operating profit of $9.3 million, compared to an operating loss of $4.3 million for the previous financial year. The group includes the airline, its wholly owned subsidiary Pacific Sun, and a 38.75 per cent stake in the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island which is being remodelled.

The airline flies from Fiji to 15 cities in 10 countries including Hong Kong, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands.

Air Pacific aircraft bring in 68 per cent of all visitors who fly to Fiji. During the past two years it has faced increased competition from Qantas subsidiary Jetstar and from Virgin Australia. During the past year it has retired a vintage Boeing 767 aircraft, introduced a new 737-800 and has started Boeing 747 services to Hong Kong.

Pflieger -a former US military and airline pilot - started at the Nadi-based airline two years ago.

- NZ Herald

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