In the last 65 years, Fiji Airways has methodically climbed the right steps to building a successful and profitable airline.
And they are now ready and more than willing to help their Pacific neighbour reach the same heights.
Following the M.O.U. signing between Fiji Airways and Samoa Airways this week, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Fiji Airways, Mr Andre Viljoen, spoke about the drive behind the alliance and the secret to running a lucrative airline.
In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Viljoen said the motive behind such an alliance is more than just economic gains for both countries; it’s also about creating a stronger and more independent South Pacific.
“Very simply, the Pacific Rim where we live is ours. Not foreign airlines. It should be us controlling and dominating the airspace here and bringing the tourists in and I’m very pleased that this is a step forward in the right direction.”
Mr Viljoen has long held this view and looking back, he remembers the initial observations about the industry upon his appointment as the C.E.O. of Fiji Airways.
“When I joined Fiji Airways the first thing I asked was why are all these foreign airlines here and why don’t all these (Pacific) countries have their own airlines – it doesn’t make any sense because having your own airline, is a strategic advantage”
Mr Viljoen went on to stress how strategically valuable it is for a country to have its own airline and that if Samoa followed Fiji’s lead, Samoa Airways could very well be a significant income producer for the country.
Fiji Airways has successfully managed to direct foreign currency via tourists flowing directly into Fiji rather than leaving with foreign airlines.
So what is the secret to building and maintaining a successful national airline?
“In the last 4 years, Fiji has gone through a transformation where three key areas were identified as being crucial to their success.
The first being the importance of growing and utilizing a network to increase prosperity, Mr Viljoen told Samoa Observer.
“We took that network that we had accumulated and we improved it. Although we flew to 14 points, from there we were able to make connections beyond them so that nowadays we have many destinations that we serve. This was an important ingredient to create that worldwide market feeding into Fiji. “
Mr Viljoen, further elaborated on crucial aspects of investing in the right aircraft. He pointed to having a fleet of modern and fuel efficient aircraft, which is essential. He added that in addressing the right aircraft, you inadvertently address the right network.
The last ingredient, the glue that holds everything together is “staying focused – not being distracted by nonsense and having the full support of your government which believes in the strategic value of supporting your institution,” he said.
In response to those questioning the motives behinds Fiji’s extended hand in partnership, Mr Viljoen explained “we must remember that in general ,the world has learned from past mistakes to form co-operative ventures and alliances.
"It’s better to partner up than to fight; no one wins in a fight.
“We can be competitors in the sense we can be co-operating commercially to the mutual benefit of both parties,” Mr Viljoen told Samoa Observer.
Viljoen has confidence in his bilateral approach to business with Samoa and looks forward to a prosperous future with Samoa Airways.