• The Taukei Na Ua
• CEO Fiji Airways Mr Andre Viljoen
• Management and Staff of Fiji Airways
• Ladies and Gentlemen
Good Afternoon everyone.
Before I begin, I would like to first acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today; Na Were I Sawaieke, ki na Yavusa Ua.
I’m very grateful for the invitation to be chief guest at this welcome ceremony for the A350, Island of Beqa, newest addition to the Fiji Airways fleet.
Today marks a critical step in the most ambitious expansion plan in the history of the airline.
The Island of Beqa is integral to that. So is another A350 scheduled to arrive next week.
They join a new Fiji Airways flight path to lift performance in fulfilling our airline’s strategic goals.
It seeks a bigger fleet; more routes to markets for tourism and trade; substantially increased passenger and cargo capacity; and a larger involvement in Oceania, which has new importance in world affairs.
With the addition of The Island of Beqa, Fiji Airways is also sending a signal that our nation is moving forward into an era of renewal, revitalization and growth.
The airline has won an international reputation by winning the Skytrax Award for Best Airline in Australia and the Pacific.
It has retained for the third year in succession the Skytrax Award for Best Airline Staff in Australia and the Pacific.
Fiji Airways stands as a symbol of the excellence Fiji can reach.
It is our current model for progress, a source of national pride, and proof positive that our small country can compete commercially with the world’s best.
This magnificent aircraft before us is the most technically and environmentally sophisticated in the market.
It offers 334 passengers unparalleled comfort and convenience. Fuel burn and CO2 emissions are reduced by 25 per cent per seat.
Nitrogen oxide emissions are lower, and it’s the quietest aircraft in its class.
Noise level is down 50 per cent, compared to earlier generation aircraft.
With the arrival of The Island of Beqa and the aircraft expected next week, Fiji Airways’ fleet size increases to 21.
The experts at Fiji Airways calculate that, compared to 2019, the airline may now have up to 40 per cent more passenger capacity, depending on route schedules.
It doesn’t stop there. Fiji Airways is carefully considering acquiring more aircraft and increasing capacity on some existing routes. Feasibility studies are ongoing on potential new routes. Some of them connect to very large markets.
You will recall that when it was called Air Pacific, the airline had an important place in regional aviation.
That largely ended when it reverted to its original name, Fiji Airways, and refocused more on serving the interests of Fiji.
However, regional routes continue to play a role.
I’ve been thinking about this recently through my own involvement with the Pacific Islands Forum.
There’s a new energy and vigour in relationships between the Island nations. We are developing areas of closer cooperation and strengthening unity.This is especially in light of the increase in big power rivalry in Oceania.
I’ve been wondering how Fiji Airways might play a part in this new regionalism.
I’m aware that the management has plans forexpanding in the Islands and look forward to discussing this with them. The full picture of Fiji Airways’ contribution to our economy becomes dramatically apparent in the statistics.
Take tourism, Fiji Airways brings more than 70 per cent of the visitors to our country.
To July this year, the airline had carried 978,000 return trip passengers. This equates to some 489,000 visitors, including from the Fijian diaspora.
The full target for 2023 is more than two million return passengers.
This translates to approximately one million visitors, including those from the diaspora. Surely another big milestone.
The current fleet expansion will boost freight capacity for exporting Fiji products. The present annual total is more than 60,000 tonnes.
It complements very well the People’s AllianceGovernment’s plans for trade expansion.
This Fiji economic powerhouse each year spends about $450million dollars locally. It’s a big earner of foreign currency.
In 2023 the total is expected to be $1.5 billion dollars. We can add to that a projected payment of $80 million dollars in departure tax.
The budgeted cost this year of Fiji Airways’ workforce is $182 million dollars, including salaries and other related expenses. This money too circulates through the economy.
By year’s end, the staff total is expected to be more than 2000.
Ladies and gentlemen, I pay tribute to the entire Fiji Airways workforce for their skill, competence and diligence.
Together, they have taken Fiji Airways into the higher realms of achievement in an intensely competitive industry.
The management team, led by Andre Viljoen, must be praised as well for its leadership, vision and strategic thinking. I make special mention of the flight attendants for their grace, poise, charm and attentiveness.
These are Fijians representing Fiji to the world.This nation is proud of them. We thank them from our hearts for their service.
In my own travels on different airlines, I have noticed how our cabin crews stand out from the rest.
The People’s Alliance Government was very happy with the decision to reinstate the 212 employees who lost their jobs when the COVID pandemic laid waste to large parts of our economy, including tourism.
It remains for me now to offer Fiji’s thanks to local pilots Etika Tuisue, Clayton Cornish and SatvikrantSingh, who flew The Island of Beqa from Malta to Los Angeles and home to Fiji. Vinaka, vinaka!
I recognise as well the engineers and all the other staff who were critical to the successful delivery of the aircraft. Thank you.
Fiji Airways, ladies and gentlemen, is flying high for Fiji. Let it be part of our national inspirationand vision as we all work together to create a united and prosperous country.