Transformation At Fiji Airports

A world class airport with its friendly people is one way the Nadi International Aiport can be classified. First it came from Skytrax, the top international rating agency for airlines
22 Dec 2018 10:00
Transformation At Fiji Airports
Airports Fiji ltd executive chairman Faiz Khan.

A world class airport with its friendly people is one way the Nadi International Aiport can be classified.

First it came from Skytrax, the top international rating agency for airlines and airports.

Nadi International was named as one of the 10 most improved airports around the world in the 2018 Skytrax World Airport Awards, coming in sixth..

Traveller, Australia’s top travel website, has named Nadi International Airport as the Best Recent Renovation in its survey of airports around the world.

It is in Traveller’s guide to the world’s best and worst airport – from best food to the longest queues.

Fiji Airports executive chairman Faiz Khan  noted earlier that it is always welcoming to receive such independent critiquing recognition.

This particular recognition of best ren­ovation in the world is a reminder of what the airport was in the past.

As the critique says ‘Nadi used to be the worst’.

Mr Khan said more is to be done and is being done under Fiji Airports master planning.


Below are extracts of Mr Khan’s interview:

  1. Can you tell us about the transformation at Fiji Airports under your leadership?

First and foremost, let me say that the transformation has been brought about by team Fiji Airports.

And that’s around 550 of us.

Before I give you some of the boring financial numbers I would like to say that the biggest transformation has come about in our people.

Five years ago we were an organisation where each department was acting in silos.

Today we are one team. Our motto is “team work and delivery through effective communication and understanding of roles”.

We work in a team to drive progress.

We do so by understanding our challenges, tasks and opportunities and then effectively communicating with each other.

Our team aims for excellence and today we are receiving international recognitions for the team’s service delivery, hard work and strategic direction.

Financially FA’s profits have grown tenfold or 1,000 per cent.

From an organisation generating $8million in profits, six years ago, this year we will be generating $93.7 million in operating profits before taxes and depreciation.

We had to restructure our revenue and cost structures in order to create a long term strategic direction through planned capital upgrades and improvements to services.

In the last five years, we have spent $190million in successfully delivering infrastructure projects for our terminal, pavement and air traffic assets.

Most were ageing and obsolete and in a dire state.

There are about $80 million of works in progress.

In the next five years another $300 million is likely to be spent under our master planning to future proof Nadi Airport for the next 100 years.

Recently we had our assets independently reviewed by Erasito Beca for fair market values.

This exercise showed that the fair market value of our assets has increased by $216 million.

Consequently our shareholders fund has also increased by that amount. This is largely attributed to the successful value for money investments that we have carried out. The valuation also goes in line with another independent exercise we had a QS company carry out for actual build costs of 10 Australian airports.

The exercise revealed that a development the size of Nadi had actually cost up to $289 million in Australia. We spent $129 million.

One of the key features of our success is that despite carrying out complicated infrastructure projects we have achieved value for money investments and managed to keep our operational cost structures highly efficient.

This has resulted in excess cash generation.

In the last five years we have declared $145million to Government in dividends. This is phenomenal and in line with prudent practices for the shareholder to earn equitable dividend returns for its century old investment into our airports.

Our efforts have received international recognition. Nadi received the World’s sixth Most Improved Airport by Skytrax.

A fortnight ago Traveller Guide recognised Nadi as the Best Recent Renovation in the World.


  1. Can you tell us about the Nausori Airport project?

Nausori Airport is currently a restricted airport.

Once the runway extension is completed it will allow narrow body haul aircraft like the B737 Max to operate on full load capacity with improved operational accessibility.

The project will make provision for further expansion of the runway in future depending on demand.

The Nausori Airport Runway Extension and Upgrade Project will involve the complete upgrade of the runway and pavement infrastructure over the next two and half years.

The runway length will be extended from 1,670 metres to 2,140 meters and widened from 30 metres to 45 meters.

Taxiways will be widened, and new parking apron created in readiness for terminal upgrade in future.

Works will also include the construction of properly drained strip area, runway end safety area (RESA), installation and upgrade of associated navigational aids, drainage for the site, diversion of the road infrastructure, new perimeter security fence and perimeter roading for increased safety and security access.

This is the first stage of our plans to transform Nausori Airport. Fiji Airports plans to modernise the Nausori Airport terminal once the runway project is completed as the second stage of the project.


  1. What are your 20 year plans?

We have a mammoth of a task under our master planning for the next five years.

We need to do major infrastructure upgrade over the next five years to prepare ourselves for the next 100 years.

Unfortunately our tasks have been made harder by the State and airport authority in the past giving away key strategic airport land in all four corners of the Nadi Airport land area.

There are numerous other projects we will be undertaking to better connect our network of local airports for better connectivity of the Fijian people.


  1. What were some of the challenges, strengths and weaknesses during the NATMP?


The greatest challenge was to build a new airport terminal whilst continuing to operate.

The second challenge was to upgrade old buildings without proper drawings or master planning.

There was a further study carried out through Airports Council International (ACI) – a body that is closely linked to ICAO and the aviation sector that specialises in benchmarking airport businesses globally. ACI found that Fiji Airports cost was US$8 (FJ$16) per pax compared to US$14 (FJ$29) per pax for other Pacific Island airports and the global average.


  1. Can you tell us a bit about your staff?

We are proud of the fact that we have a local based workforce compared to other large organisations.

Fiji Airports has around 550 employees who have grown with the organisation over the years through major projects that have been undertaken.

We strongly believe in our pool of talented locals. This has been built on empowering and developing our staff.

The percentage of women in our organisation continues to grow.

In key departments like Air Traffic Management women make up more than 40 per cent of staff numbers.

Our staff are groomed and developed through ICAO and ACI seminars which we either host or attend abroad.

Our people continue to grow which has resulted in promotions and pay rises.

It’s a two way relationship and it’s given because they are deserved.

Fiji Airports last week announced a staff bonus payout of more than $816,000 for its employees before Christmas.

This bonus payout is an additional benefit given across the board to our staff on top of increments and other incentives which our people receive.

  1. Apart from NATMP, what have been other infrastructure investments this year?

The new Rotuma Chip Seal Runway has been one of our major highlights this year.

It opened in October to allow ATR operations carrying tenfold more passengers at full capacity.

There is currently no business case for infrastructure developments at our Outer Island Stations, yet Fiji Airports carried out the $12.8m runway upgrade as part of our commitment to government’s vision of improving air connectivity for Fijians locally.

To give you some idea of the challenges we faced in working in an isolated environment that is 587km from Nadi, the project spent about $500k in barging costs and $650k in flight charters.

It was never easy to build the runway in Rotuma to allow ATR operations. Fiji Airports has done so through sheer grit and determination.

We are carrying out numerous other projects in air traffic management. One of the key strategic infrastructure projects we are undertaking is the upgrade of our air traffic to surveillance based system.

These are exciting yet challenging times.


  1. Can you tell us more about your recent International ratings for Nadi Airport?

On December 6th, Traveller Guide rated Nadi Airport as the Best Recent Renovation in the World. This is yet another international recognition for Nadi Airport in 2018.

What we like about this critique recognition is that it vividly describes what Nadi was using words such as “worst, cramped, barely functioning aircon system…”.

We tend to forget these things and the critique aptly weighs what was against what is – worst to best.

In March this year Skytrax rated Nadi as the 6th Most Improved Airport in the World.

Both these international ratings were done independently and show that Nadi Airport is now truly a world class terminal talked about by reviewers and passengers around the world.

Nadi Airport is the pride of Fiji, the best airport in the Pacific and competing with other big airports around the world.



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