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Fiji Airways Claim Shot Down

Incorrect figures quoted by Opposition member Biman Prasad in Parliament regarding Fiji Airways have been challenged by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. At a press conference yesterday, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum presented correct figures
16 Feb 2015 11:02
Fiji Airways Claim Shot Down

Incorrect figures quoted by Opposition member Biman Prasad in Parliament regarding Fiji Airways have been challenged by Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

At a press conference yesterday, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum presented correct figures on the role the national carrier plays in bringing tourists into the country.

During the Parliamentary session on Thursday, Mr Prasad said our objective “should not be running an airline” and should be focused on growing the tourism industry. He claimed this could be done by opening up the market for other airlines.

He also claimed that Fiji Airways had 3450 seats available daily and had 70 per cent seat factor- claiming that out of every 100 seat available 70 seats are sold.

This is wrong.

According to figures from Airports Fiji Limited, out of 880,611 people who came into Fiji last year, 521,029 people flew in on a Fiji Airways flight.

The Fiji Airways seat load factor is 83 per cent and not 70 per cent as Mr Prasad claimed in Parliament.

“The figures that he cited in Parliament were actually in correct. This is very worrying because he said it in the context that we should not really be focusing on ensuring that Fiji Airways stays around.

“What he was saying that we should only on concerned about bringing tourists in,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

He also corrected Mr Prasad on other areas that tourists in Fiji also flew in on Air New Zealand, Korean Air, Air Caledonie, Pacific Blue, Air Nuigini, Air Nauru, Jetstar Air and other airlines like.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum further stated that the role Fiji Airways played was beyond bringing tourists into the country. It also ensured a larger portion of tourist dollar stayed in Fiji.

“The reality is that Fiji is an island nation, so people come to Fiji by air. We are also a country that depends on tourism. Now, assuming that there is a flood and we don’t have a national carrier, who would take passengers out of Fiji?

“The other airlines don’t have an obligation to Fiji. Fiji is not their home country.

“They simply can say that the risk is too high, the liability is too high and we are not going to fly to Fiji. We will wait until waters recede and then we will think about flying to Fiji.

“When you have a national carrier, the national carrier obviously has an obligation to the country. This is why it is critical that in terms of maintaining the tourism industry, we also have a national carrier.”

Mr Prasad’s very simplistic view failed to consider this and while advocating opening up competition, he made no comments about the possibility of the national carrier closing down resulting in job losses.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said they were opening up competition but that was done in a planned manner.

A recent example is of this is Jetstar now flying in from Gold Coast to Nadi.

The Civil Aviation Minister also stated that the national carrier ensured a larger portion of the tourist dollar stayed in Fiji.

“We do have a certain level of obligation to Fiji Airways. If you open up the skies as they say to all other airlines to fly to Fiji, as they did in other parts of the world as they did in West Indies etc, the national airline will close down.

“If the national airline closes down, what does that mean? It means that even though you may have other airlines bringing in tourists to Fiji, it means that the tourism dollar- less of it stays in Fiji.

“Obviously if the national airline brings in tourists, the dollar stays in Fiji from that air fare. The air fare stays in Fiji, they pay tax in Fiji; when they pay taxes in Fiji, we generate more revenue.”

At the moment, our recovery rate from $1 that a tourist spends in Fiji, by general estimate is about 60 to 65 per cent.

“I think the comments made by Honourable Prasad were overly simplistic. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the civil aviation industry, it shows a complete lack of understanding of the commercial realities.”

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said such comments were also very irresponsible.

“We are obviously concerned to ensure that the right information goes out to members of the public and indeed right information goes out to investors in Fiji, the right message goes out to building confidence to staff of Fiji Airways.

“This very simplistic and indeed very irresponsible approach in terms of simplifying issues and putting them in front of Parliament and stating that in Parliament and ignores the facts.”

 

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