Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, has today announced that it will suspend all international flights until the end of May, with the exception of twice-weekly services between Singapore and Nadi. The move follows the unprecedented nature and scale of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, which is causing travel demands to plummet due to health concerns and state restrictions.
The almost complete shutdown of all international flights is necessary to respect the various border control restrictions now in place, including from its Nadi hub.
Fiji Airways will operate a daily Nadi-Sydney service until Sunday 22 March, and suspend the service after that. Nadi-Los Angeles return services will operate daily until Sunday 22 March, and will be suspended after the last Los Angeles-Nadi flight returns to Fiji on 24 March.
Fiji Airways will operate the last return Auckland-Nadi service on Sunday 22nd March. The final South Pacific return services between Nadi or Suva and Nuku’alofa, Honiara and Funafuti will operate on Saturday 21 March. The final Nadi – Honolulu flight will operate on Sunday 22nd March with the return on Monday.
Return services between Nadi and Brisbane, Melbourne, Christchurch, Wellington, Hong Kong, Tokyo (Narita), Apia, Tarawa, Christmas Island (Kiritimati), Vava’u, San Francisco are suspended immediately.
Return services between Suva and Sydney, Auckland and Port Vila, along with services between Apia-Honolulu and Christmas Island (Kiritimati)-Honolulu are also suspended with immediate effect.
The suspensions are in place until the end of May, and may be extended further if travel restrictions remain in place. Working with foreign embassies and Governments, Fiji Airways will mount one-off recovery flights on an ad-hoc basis during the suspension period as necessary to allow citizens/residents to return home or to their point of origin. Recovery services to/from Tokyo (Narita) and Hong Kong are planned for March 27 and March 29 respectively.
The affected flights are being cancelled now. Fiji Link’s domestic services will continue as scheduled for now, and may be reduced depending on demand.
Apart from the above Narita and Hong Kong recovery services, the airline will be running some supplementary recovery flights to Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles for any remaining passengers wanting to get back to their countries, as well as bring back home any Fijian nationals still in those cities.
Mr. Andre Viljoen, Managing Director and CEO of Fiji Airways said: “This is by far the most drastic move in our airline’s proud 68-year history. They are, however, necessary measures to navigate through this crisis. We are restricted by the border control measures now enforced across a large part of our network, which make it nearly impossible for us or any airline to continue scheduled operations. The suspension will be in place until such time as demand returns.”
“We are a resilient business and a proud national airline, and are taking actions needed at this time in response to the current situation,” added Mr. Viljoen.
“We are mindful of the importance of Fiji Airways to Fijian tourism and the Fijian economy. The country needs its tourism industry to survive, and Fiji Airways is an integral part of this ecosystem. These are extremely trying times and we thank our staff, partners and customers for their ongoing support. We are assisting our customers as best we can in these trying times, working with those whose flights are immediately impacted first.”
Guests are able to defer travel or retain credit for future use. Due to the high volumes of calls and messages through the airline’s Reservations Centre and social media channels, guests are requested to wait for flight notifications sent to them. Guests booked through travel agents and other third parties will be contacted by their respective agencies.
Mr. Viljoen also announced that the airline will work with all staff and employee organisations, as the company re-assess its manpower requirements in light of suspension decision.
“This announcement will inevitably impact our people. We continue to engage with all employee and employee organisations regarding our future manpower requirements when we eventually return to what will undoubtedly be a thinner schedule.”
As the COVID-19 crisis grew, Fiji Airways instituted its Business Continuity and Financial-Security plans. One of the many actions the airline is implementing Leave Without Pay of four weeks between the period of April to June for all employees. Additionally, all senior management are taking a 35% pay cut.
“These are necessary and prudent measures to preserve cash as we, like most other airlines around the world, try to ride out this crisis. It is unfortunate and we will assist all staff through the difficult days and weeks ahead. Cash preservation is the only way to ensure the sustainability of our airline. We have also engaged with all relevant stakeholders in this regard.”