1 September 2021: Fiji Airways, Fiji’s National Airline, today commemorated its 70th anniversary. The occasion was marked by Fiji Airways staff connected virtually from around Fiji and global offices to reminisce the airline’s 70-year history and rally around their commitment to ensure its survival post-pandemic.
Fiji Airways took off on its first flight one 1st September 1951, as founder Harold Gatty’s 7-seater De Havilland Dragon Rapide, piloted by Captain Fred Ladd, took off from the Fiji’s Luvuluvu airstrip (Nausori) to Drasa Airport (near Lautoka). From the bumpy one-hour Dragon Rapide flight 70 years ago to operating 20 jet and turbo-prop aircraft today, Fiji Airways has grown into an international airline with an extended network to 108 destinations globally.
Mr. Rajesh Punja, Fiji Airways Chairman said: “Fiji Airways has consistently broken new ground for 70 years, creating a bridge for Fiji to the world and the world to Fiji. COVID has grounded commercial flying temporarily, but cannot wipe our 70-year history. We thank our predecessors, our people, and partners old and new for their commitment and support over the years and we prepare to resume flying, hopefully in just a few months, and lead Fiji’s tourism and economic recovery.”
Addressing staff from their Nadi Head Office, Managing Director & CEO Mr. Andre Viljoen said the National Airline draws strength from its 70-year history, to fight the current existential crisis caused by the COVID pandemic.
“While we are not celebrating our 70th anniversary, or FJ 70 as we call it, with fanfare, we are commemorating the occasion quietly to recognise how far we have come as an airline. Our grit and determination to survive and thrive, as we have done for 70 years, is the foundation on which our airline will return to the skies post-pandemic.”
He added: “The trailblazing achievements of our founder Harold Gatty created a legacy that has lasted seven consecutive decades. The commitment and resolve of our people, shareholders and partners will see us power through for another seven decades and more. We must acknowledge the critical and ongoing support we have had from the Fijian Government, especially our Prime Minister and Line Minister the Attorney General. We thank them for their unwavering commitment to the National Airline. Of course, we are eternally grateful to the people of Fiji for their faith in Fiji Airways throughout the 70 years.”
Fiji Airways has been the most connected airline in the region throughout its history, linking to more Pacific Island countries than any other carrier. It flies directly to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and regionally to Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Its wider network through its oneworld and bilateral partner airlines increases the airline’s reach to 108 destination worldwide.
Mr Viljoen continued: “The world has changed and there will be a new normal for travel when most countries re-open their borders and we are ready for it. Through our Travel Ready programme, Fiji Airways has attained two distinct awards that will give confidence to our customers when commercial flying resumes.”
“We are the only airline in the Australia-Pacific region, and one of only a handful in the world, to achieve a Skytrax 5-Star COVID Safety rating, as well as the highest “DIAMOND” or Hospital Grade certification for APEX Health Safety powered by Simpliflying.”
Mr Viljoen said Fiji’s vaccination rollout has helped accelerate the timeline, and a re-opening framework was being finalised in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the COVID Response Management Team comprising of key Permanent Secretaries from across Government.
“Our flight schedules will be released immediately following an official announcement by Government which outlines border requirements. One of these will undoubtedly be that visitors must be fully vaccinated, a position Fiji Airways strongly supports.”
Fiji Airways is on track to complete its return to commercial flying programme, internally termed “Fly Ready”.