A proud moment for Fiji Airways. And all Fijians.
The touchdown of our national carrier’s first of two Airbus A350-900 XWB aircraft at Nadi International Airport yesterday heralds a new era for Oceania aviation. This includes Australia and New Zealand.
The delivery flight from Airbus at Toulouse in France was under the command of Captain Mukesh Patel, one of the long-serving pilots; Captain Richard Yuen; and First Officer Gideon Leweniqila. Our national airline is the first in the region to operate this widebody aircraft, which combines the latest aerodynamics, Rolls-Royce Trent new generation engines and use of lightweight materials. The A350-900 XWB brings a 25% advantage in fuel burn, operating costs and carbon dioxide emissions compared to previous generation similar-sized aircraft. It means a significant reduction to the airline’s carbon footprint and fuel cost. This signifies our country’s global commitment to climate change.
The two A350-900 XWBs Fiji Airways has acquired also signal the Fiji First Government’s commitment to diversifying our tourism base and enabling our exporters.The state-of-the art aircraft features 33 B/E Aerospace Super Diamond, fully lie-flat Business Class seat-beds, with each offering direct aisle access. While Economy Class will feature 301 Recaro CL3710 seats, which are ranked among the most comfortable long-haul economy class seats on the market.
The A350-900 XWB’s Airspace by Airbus cabin is the quietest of any twin-aisle aircraft. It offers passengers and crew the most modern in-flight products for the most comfortable flying experience.
Not only will the aircraft provide the ultimate in luxury air travel to Fiji, it’s also perfect for passengers taking flights from here to other destinations.
The aircraft boasts the latest generation AVANT inflight entertainment system from THALES and Wi-Fi connectivity. Passengers will be able to enjoy movies, TV and music on-demand, all whilst remaining connected in the air. There are 257 Airbus A350s in the skies around the world today, flown by 24 operators. These include Fiji Airways’ partner oneworld airlines: Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Malaysia Airlines and Qatar Airways. Other A350 operators include Hong Kong Airlines, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines. We are flying the best with the best and the Fiji Airways success in the global Skytrax awards shows we are among the best.
Our national airline from its first commercial flight in 1951 has made tremendous progress over the decades despite challenges. It was rebranded as Air Pacific in 1970 before it was reverted to Fiji Airways in 2012.
Tough decisions and strategic plans were put in place by the Voreqe Bainimarama-led Governments since 2006 to address looming financial issues. Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has played an integral role in focusing on the way ahead. He should be applauded for this.
It has also seen two key chief executives recruited, first; the accomplished but tough American Dave Pflieger. A commercial jet pilot, lawyer and military officer, he implemented some of the hard decisions needed in the turnaround.
Now the hard working airline veteran South African Andre Viljoen has taken Fiji Airways into a new era of internationally recognised service and sparkling new aircraft. He has done with Fiji Airways what he has done elsewhere. At Nadi yesterday it showed.
We should also acknowledge the work of executive general manager Shaenaz Voss, a shining star of a woman executive in an area dominated by men.
Mr Bainimarama told the welcoming crowd the Airbus A350-900 XWB is more than a plane. It’s a clear sign of Fiji’s progress. How right he is. How proud all Fijians should be of Fiji Airways and the success it has enjoyed under Mr Bainimarama’s government.
How important it is for Fijians to support our national airline, especially amidst increasing competition from Australian carriers like Qantas.