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Bid To Stop $18m Support For Fiji Airways Defeated

Bid To Stop $18m Support  For Fiji Airways Defeated
Fiji Airways A330-200s at Singapore Changi Airport.
July 14
11:00 2017

The Opposition’s bid to remove $18 million of marketing support to Fiji Airways for the next financial year was booted out of Parliament last night.

It was defeated by 32 votes to 14 while four didn’t cast their votes.

Mover of the motion, SODELPA Opposition Member of Parliament, Viliame Gavoka said it would be sinful to give such large amount of money to one of the most profitable companies in the country.

He said when all airlines around the world were going through a hard time because of rocket fuel prices Fiji Airways was ready to adapt because of the millions profit had made.

In his Budget debate right of reply, Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said comments by Mr Gavoka showed he had little knowledge about the tourism and aviation sector.

The reality was, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said that Fiji Airways was the only secure and largest Pacific island airline company and had the largest footprint.

It has a much bigger footprint in terms of their capital investment in purchasing the A330.

He added they looked at expanding to 737s and they had a much better financial position of $64 million profit in one financial year.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the national carrier was now even thinking of increasing the number of weekly flights to Singapore, which has had other benefits too.

“As a result of flying to Singapore, we now have a code share agreement with Jet Airways. We are getting our footprint to the largest outbound market. In three years’ time, the Indians will be the largest travellers,” he said.

“The numbers are looking quite good. We are hoping in the next six months’ time at least we will be able to do at least three times a week to Singapore. The moment we do that, the route becomes a lot more viable. The point is that it will create more Fijian jobs, getting more foreign revenue into the country.

“It’s actually extending our footprint into the tourism sector.”

Samoa also relied on Fiji Airways to set up the Polynesian Airlines again.

“They are actually paying us money to do it right for them, isn’t that a good thing?”

The Opposition, he said, was trapped in its own ideas.

“The problem is they get hold of an idea and they don’t want to let go of it. They should be supporting this. This is our national carrier,” he said.

In case of any natural disaster in Fiji, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum explained, that the only airline that would fly in and out would be Fiji Airways.

“So it is very critical for us…. If you have tourism – your largest contributor to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product), then you need to have a national carrier, in particular, when over 95 per cent of tourism arrivals come by aircraft.”

He further explained, yet again, that over 70 per cent of visitors arrive into Fiji on the national carrier.

National Federation Party Opposition MP, Biman Prasad said Fiji Airways was a private company but “I think the airline had too much of mollycoddling from our public funds.”

Edited by Karalaini Waqanidrola

Feedback: arieta.vakasukawaqa@fijisun.com.fj

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