Fiji Airways eyes US Midwest, mulls Latin America

LATTE chats with Andre Viljoens, CEO Fiji Airways

Fiji Airways is evaluating the feasibility of expanding its reach further into the United States, with Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago and Houston under consideration.

Speaking exclusively with LATTE this week, Andre Viljoen CEO of Fiji Airways said the airline was close to finalising a lease arrangement for two brand-new, currently parked Airbus A350 aircraft that would provide expanded route options.

“The purpose of that lease is to possibly go deeper into the US, looking at a Dallas for example,” Viljoen said, while ruling out New York due to the A350’s range.

“We can even look at other markets. There’s Chicago as well, there’s Houston. We’ll do our homework before we decide which one.”

Chicago and Dallas/Fort Worth are key hubs of American Airlines, a founding member of oneworld, which Fiji Airways joined as the first oneworld Connect member in 2018.

Business Class, Fiji Airways A350

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“oneworld Connect is a junior partnership. So we are pushing all the time to get more out of the arrangement. We’re very privileged to be in it. We are constantly engaged with them to see how we can get more out of the relationship,” Viljoen said.

Fiji Airways had previously looked at expansion into the US before the pandemic stifled those plans. However, the vision has been rekindled, with the possibility of launching to new hubs from Nadi as soon as March/April 2023.

Viljoen said Fiji Airways was in the middle of “finalising the process now”.

Fiji Airways currently operates to Los Angeles and San Francisco in the United States, and launched new flights to Vancouver, Canada late last month. Viljoen said the Nadi-Vancouver route was already attracting strong thru-traffic from Australia’s east coast hubs and Auckland.

Quizzed about other potential long-haul routes that might be considered with the new leased A350s, Viljoen said South America might be an option.

“We fly to every country that rims the Pacific except for South America, so maybe there’s an option there one day. Argentina, Brazil or any one of those countries.”

He said South America would be feasible and equivalent to flying to Vancouver, which is 10.5 hours from Nadi.

“It’s uncertain at this stage but it would be a great opportunity,” Viljoen told LATTE.

With the carrier passing its one-year anniversary since resuming service following its COVID pause, Viljoen said “the ramp-up towards ‘normal’ has far exceeded any expectation we’d had.”

“We’ve only got 70% of our network open, with Narita and Hong Kong both closed and South Pacific islands slowly reopening. Of the 70% that’s opened, Fiji Airways is flying with near 100% capacity so extra flights have been added. On peak days in July and December, that’s as many as five flights per day into Sydney.

“The demand is huge,” he enthused.

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