Analysis

Maintaining Our Airports Is An Amazing Feat That Many Do Not Realise

It is no wonder that Nadi International Airport is the only airport out of the country’s 15 airports making a profit.
07 Aug 2019 14:05
Maintaining Our Airports Is An Amazing Feat That Many Do Not Realise
Nausori International Airport

Airports are not cheap to operate.

For a small maritime nation like ours with a lot of small islands, air service is always a big challenge.

It is no wonder that Nadi International Airport is the only airport out of the country’s 15 airports making a profit.

Some of the figures for the losses quoted by the Attorney-General and Minister for Civil Aviation Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum in Parliament yesterday illustrate the enormity of the challenge.

During the leadership of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, then Prime Minister of the Alliance Government, three airports were opened with a lot of fanfare. They were Ba, Deuba and Korolevu on the Coral Coast.

The intention was good. It was designed to boost tourism and business and stimulate economic development in these areas.

But the cost far outweighed the benefits and Korolevu and Ba eventually closed. Only Deuba is operating. They were template to set up similar airstrips in other areas of economic development potential.

The fact that we now have 13 functioning domestic airports, although they run at a loss, is amazing.

The losses have been growing over the years as additional funds have been used to maintain them. How long can Airports Fiji Limited be able to sustain these losses?

But Nadi is making a profit because of a strategic decision made some time ago to upgrade it. The Bainimarama Government had put in place the Nadi Airport Development and Modernisation Act.

Many were quick to politicise and attack the reforms and did not understand Government’s vision for bringing the aviation sector in Fiji into the 21st century.

Yesterday in Parliament some Opposition MPs were critical of some aspects of the airport. They complained about the high price of food and items sold by outlets there. There was also a complaint about the state of the toilets. It was even astonishingly claimed that the airport was one of the dirtiest in the world.

On prices of items at airport shops, they reflect the standards of the airport. It is unrealistic to expect to pay the same prices that they pay in downtown Nadi. That’s why the airport is making money because it is serving a particular market.

Today Nadi International Airport, has been ranked as one of the World’s Most Improved Airports. It is Fiji’s flagship airport and the regional hub of the South Pacific.

The accolade came during the prestigious Skytrax 2018 World Airport Awards, which was held in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Skytrax World Airport Awards are the most prestigious accolades for the world’s airport industry. It represents the global benchmark of airport excellence.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said then it was a testament of the growing strength of Fiji’s aviation industry, tourism sector and economy.

The reality of the situation is that if we do not make the changes we would be left behind, overtaken by other countries competing in the same market.

Feedback: nemani.delaibatiki@fijisun.com.fj

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