On September 1st, 1951, Fiji Airways (formerly Air Pacific) made its first commercial flight from the Fiji’s Nausori Airport to Drasa Airport near Lautoka, with a De Havilland Dragon Rapide. The airline’s origins date back to 1947 when Harold Gatty, an acclaimed air navigator, inventor and airline manager, submitted a proposal to Fiji’s Colonial Government to operate the country’s domestic airline and registered it as Katafaga Estates Ltd., after his coconut estate.
In 1958, After Gatty’s death, Fiji Airways was acquired by Qantas. Initially, Qantas tried to create international support for a multinational, shared, regional airline. Fiji Airways was the airline’s name between 1958 and 1970.
By mid 1960s, Fiji Airways’ shareholders included TEAL (the forerunner of Air New Zealand) and British Overseas Airways Corporation (the forerunner of British Airways) the governments of Tonga, Western Samoa, Nauru, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands.
In 1970, after gaining independence from Great Britain as a Commonwealth realm, the new national government of Fiji began buying shares in Fiji Airways.
In 1971, slightly before its first international flight, the airline was renamed Air Pacific to reflect its regional presence.
In the early 1970s, besides Qantas and the forerunners of Air New Zealand and British Airways, up to seven island governments of the Pacific held shares in Air Pacific. However, the regional airline idea lost support as other governments sold their shares, leaving Fiji as the majority shareholders in the airline.
In June 1973, Air Pacific made its first international flight to Brisbane, Australia.
In 1974, as tourism became the nation’s leading industry making the airline even more important to the Fijian economy, the government of Fiji acquired a controlling interest in Air Pacific.
In the early 1980s, Air Pacific pioneered the concept of codeshare agreements in conjunction with Qantas. Today, code-sharing is an accepted airline practice the world over.
In 1983, the airline started flights to the US with a route to Honolulu called ‘Project America’.
In the 1990s, Air Pacific relocated its headquarters from the capital city of Suva to the coastal town of Nadi where the main international airport is located. There, the company also constructed an elaborate aircraft maintenance center.
In January 1995, Air Pacific and the then Royal Tongan Airlines launched the concept of joint leasing of aircraft. On each half of a Boeing 737-300 fuselage, was painted the livery of the two airlines.
In 1998, Qantas raised its equity in the airline from 17.45 percent to 46 percent. The Fiji government owns 52% of the airline, Qantas 46%, and the governments of several Pacific island nations the remainder. By the late 1990s, the Air Pacific fleet included Boeing 737 and 767 jets, as well as ATR 42 turboprops used on flights to neighboring islands.
Except 2001, the airline was profitable from 1995 to 2004, but it suffered record losses for fiscal years 2008/2009 and 2009/2010.
In January 2007, Air Pacific acquired Sun Air and established its regional subsidiary airline trading as Pacific Sun. Pacific Sun began operations with eight aircraft, two ATR 42-500 aircraft, three BN2 Islanders and three DHC-6 Twin Otters.
In December 2009, the airline commenced a twice-weekly service to Hong Kong. The frequency increased to three services a week in January 2014.
In April 2011, due to delivery delays of almost four years, Air Pacific announced that it had cancelled its order of eight Boeing 787-9s. In October 2011, Air Pacific announced that it had ordered three Airbus A330-200s.
In 2012, Air Pacific announced that, in order to reinforce its role as the national airline of Fiji, it would reintroduce the name Fiji Airways. The new brand identity and color scheme were fully revealed in October, in conjunction with Fiji Day (the anniversary of Fiji’s independence from British colonial rule).
In March 2013, the airline received its first Airbus A330, which was christened The Island of Taveuni. This was the first-ever purchase of new wide-body aircraft by Air Pacific in its history. Today, the fleet includes three Airbus A330-200, four Boeing 737-800 and one Boeing 737-700. The airline used the transition from Boeing 747 to Airbus A330 to rebrand from Air Pacific, thus reinforcing the airline’s improved product.
In June 2013, the rebranding to Fiji Airways officially took place and came with a new website, brand new Airbus A330-200 aircraft and a name change for the airline’s booking classes. Fiji Airways connects the islands of Fiji to the world, and the new brand is intended to illustrate the airline’s Fijian roots and focus on the Fiji market.
In November 2013, Fiji Airways extended the new brand to its regional subsidiary and announced Pacific Sun was to be rebranded as Fiji Link. Just as the rebranding of Fiji Airways occurred as the new Airbus A330 arrived, the rebranding of Pacific Sun to Fiji Link was planned to coincide with the renewal of the turboprop fleet in 2014.
In June 2014, Fiji Airways officially launched Fiji Link with the delivery of its first ATR 72-600. by the end of the year a second ATR 72-600 and an ATR 42-600 joined Fiji Airways fleet. The ATR fleet is used on larger domestic routes and some international routes to neighbouring island groups while the Twin Otter fleet is used in smaller domestic markets.
For the fiscal year 2014, Fiji Airways and its consolidated group (Air Pacific Group) both made operating profits. Air Pacific Group, which comprises Fiji Airways, Pacific Sun, and a 38.75% stake in the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa on Denarau Island, recorded an operating profit of FJ$60.8m, more than two times better than the best operating profit achieved in its history back in 2005. Fiji Airways had another record-breaking year in terms of revenue and passenger numbers. The airline grew passenger numbers by 4.5% compared to the previous year, with 1,244,596 passengers carried in 2014.
In May 2015, Fiji Airways took delivery of a fifth Boeing 737-800. The addition will boost Fiji Airways plans to start new services and add extra flights, including flights between Nadi and Christchurch and Wellington in New Zealand. An Airbus A330-300 is expected to enter the fleet in December, and this acquisition is also integral to the airline’s plans to grow its network by adding another long-haul destination in Asia.
In December 2016, Fiji Airways has announced it will commence twice-weekly direct services to Adelaide commencing June 2017. This new fourth Australian route, after Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, will give South Australians direct access to Fiji and also act as a gateway to the US via Nadi.
In October 2017, Fiji Airways started offering the Resort Check-In service at the Sofitel Fiji Resort and Spa on Denarau Island. The Resort Check-in service in the resort lobby offers both check-in and baggage check-in services.
In July 2018, Fiji Airways resumed direct flights to Tokyo Narita, operated three times a week with Airbus A330-200/-300 aircraft.
In August 2018, Fiji Link received its fourth brand new Viking DHC-6 Series 400 Twin Otter aircraft. After the addition of this new aircraft, Fiji Airways’s domestic subsidiary has one of the youngest fleets in the world with an average age of just 1.8 years.
At the end of 2018, Fiji Airways will receive its first Boeing B737 MAX 8 aircraft, and other four are scheduled for delivery in 2019. The new aircraft will replace the existing Boeing 737 fleet and serve on short- and medium-haul routes, first Australia and New Zealand, and later Hawaii, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
No fatal accidents involving Fiji Airways were registered so far.