The Fiji Airways Group’s roll of record results continued in 2017 with the company posting its highest ever pre-tax profit of $F95.8 million ($US47.1m) for the financial year despite a competitive operating environment.
But chief executive Andre Viljoen has cautioned the outlook for 2018 is challenging as the airline copes with the headwinds of fuel price increases, increased competition and a volatile US dollar.
“Fuel prices will continue to be a challenge for all airlines and we will not get complacent with the fiscal discipline required to meet our financial targets,’’ Viljoen said.
“It will, however, be an exciting year for Fiji Airways as we become the first airline in the region to receive and operate the brand new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on our short-haul markets of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.”
Group revenue at the group — which also includes a telecommunications company, regional subsidiary Fiji Link and a 38.75 per cent stake in the Sofitel Fiji Resort & Spa — rose 12.5 per cent to $F929 as the number of passengers increased 14.3 percent to 1.4 million.
The figures were good news for staff and management who received a 10 per cent rise in profit-share bonuses.
‘“2017 saw the achievement of numerous milestones for the Group,’’ Viljoen said. “The team increased the size of the fleet, launched a new route, increased frequencies on key long-haul routes and opened a world-class lounge at our home airport – Nadi.
“To achieve a fourth year of successive record profits is a massive achievement by the entire team of the Fiji Airways Group,” Viljoen said.
Milestones during the year included a deal to take five new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft and the opening of a swish new business lounge at Nadi International Airport.
Other highlights were the entry into service of three new DH6 Twin Otter aircraft, a new facility allowing guests to check in at the Sofitel resort and the upgrading of premium check-in counters.
From a network perspective, Fiji launched twice weekly services to Adelaide, Australia and increased frequencies to Singapore and San Francisco.
New codeshare agreements were concluded with Jet Airways, Hong Kong Airlines and Solomon Airlines while those with Cathay Pacific and Qantas were extended.
The new year will see a new service to Tokyo-Narita from July 3 and the arrival of the first two 737 Max 8s in November and December.
There will be further work on an aviation training facility featuring a 737MAX and an A330 simulator as well as on an evaluation campaign for wide-body aircraft to augment or replace its Airbus A330 fleet.
“Each new initiative is a deliberate, considered action that meets the dual targets of ensuring sustainable profitability while fulfilling Fiji Airways’ role as a strong national carrier and an iconic Fijian brand,’’ Fiji Airways chairman Rajesh Punja said.
“Everything, from the benefits of having our own Aviation Academy with its future growth plans to the selection of a new wide-body fleet, is designed to meets the goals of both the airline and the nation.”