Five New Jets On Way

National carrier Fiji Airways will get five new planes – the latest Boeing 737 MAX 8 – with the first two here as early as 2018. The remaining three will
24 Nov 2016 11:00
Five New Jets On Way
Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive Andre Viljoen (left), with Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum at the announcement yesterday in Suva. Photo: Ronald Kumar

National carrier Fiji Airways will get five new planes – the latest Boeing 737 MAX 8 – with the first two here as early as 2018.

The remaining three will be delivered in 2019. The new acquisition will replace the national carrier’s existing narrow-body fleet of four boeing 737-800s and a 737-700.

The acquisition has been done on a sale and leaseback financing  agreement over 12 years financed from a Boeing Company-led consortium.

And, Fiji Airways seems to have struck a good deal with the five new additions costing US$500 million (FJ$1.05 billion).

The announcement was jointly made yesterday by Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive officer, Andre Viljoen, and Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, in the presence of representatives from the American company Boeing.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the new fleet would contribute towards increasing tourism earnings in Fiji, and with its fuel efficiency feature contribute towards Fiji’s goals to reduce its carbon footprint.

“Tourism is a major contributor to our GDP and we have to ensure that our national carrier always remains very strong. You cannot be dependent on tourism and not have a strong national carrier. It is why Government, over the past number of years, has tried to ensure that we tried the right environment and the right legal framework so that Fiji Airways can do the best it can and also grow stronger,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

And, the partnership between the Boeing Company and Fiji Airways will not end with the acquisition of the five B737Max 8.

Mr Viljoen also announced that the Boeing Company had given a cash donation to the company to acquire a simulator for a pilot-training academy that the carrier was in the process of developing.

“As you know, we are in the process of developing a country training academy for pilots and we need to acquire full flight simulators for this academy. We were looking to acquire Boeing 737 simulators and somewhere in the future an Airbus 330 one. We thank Boeing for their cash donation of US$4million (FJ$8.4m) towards a 737 simulator,” Mr Viljoen said.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said with Fiji being the hub to the Pacific, the training academy could also be used to train pilots from within the region.

He announced that the academy would be affiliated to the Fiji National University and will be located opposite the Nadi International Airport.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum made special mention of Mr Viljoen and the leadership skills he brought to the national carrier.

Mr Viljoen said the package deal secured with Boeing, leasing company GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS) and engine manufacturers CFM International included a 12-year sale and leaseback financing arrangement.

At the press conference, Mr Viljoen detailed the process which they undertook over seven months before zeroing in on Boeing and its planes to upgrade its fleet.

A clean sheet review done confirmed that Fiji Airways’ future networks would require the use of narrow body aircraft. The review was to assess the routes the national carrier flew to, future routes and the need of those routes.

When Fiji Airways made its intention known to upgrade its fleet, keeping in mind more fuel efficient options were being offered by the Boeing Company and French company Airbus, they received interest from more than a dozen companies.

Aviation consultancy company Sky Works Capital independently assessed every proposal received and after the rigorous shortlisting process, two consortiums, one led by Airbus and another led by the Boeing Company were brought to the negotiation table with three leasing companies.

Mr Viljoen said he was confident that this new announcement would be positively received by Fiji Airways customers and partners.

The airline currently operates five Boeing 737s (one 700 series/ four 800 series) on its short and medium haul network to destinations including Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

“This is a major capital decision that had to be done correctly so we followed a rigorous, thorough and transparent process to find the right solution. As a consequence of the fierce competition between the rival bidders and the extensive process followed by Fiji Airways, we have achieved a ground-breaking package deal that represents excellent value for our shareholders, customers and stakeholders,” Mr Viljoen said.

“We are satisfied that the B737 MAX 8 aircraft meets our requirements for efficient performance, more engine power, greater economics and a product that will assist us to achieve 4-Star Airline SKYTRAX Rating. Our team will now work on the cabin designs and fit-outs to Fiji Airways specifications.

“With 170 seats, we will continue with our existing two-class configuration (Business and Economy) and be able to offer an extremely competitive short and medium haul product.”

The new planes will have an increased capacity to carry four tonnes more cargo as well. 

Edited by Naisa Koroi


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