- Fiji Airways faced criticism for its charter flight from Israel to Fiji, with the opposition party claiming the airline was coerced into operating the flight by a government minister.
- The opposition party alleges that the 238 people on the pilgrimage owe the airline for unpaid charter charges.
- Fiji Airways denies any influence or pressure from the government and states that the decision to operate the charter was solely a commercial decision.
The old adage that “No good deed goes unpunished” seems to have whacked Fiji Airways for six last week. Following the airline’s successful repatriation of 243 people from Israel back to Fiji, the airline has copped criticism that it had been pressured to operate the flight.
Opposition asks who is paying
News outlet Fijivillage.com reported today that the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) had raised questions on who will pay for the trip to Jerusalem and alleged that Fiji Airways was pressured to take on the pilgrimage flight by one of the ministers in the Coalition Government.
Photo: Angel DiBilio | Shutterstock
The report says the FLP claimed they are “reliably informed” that the 238 people who took the pilgrimage to Jerusalem owe the national airline some FJ$2.3 million ($1.01 million) in unpaid charter charges and that the airline was told the payment is to be made from funds raised by the pilgrims after their return.
The FLP says they are surprised that Fiji Airways undertook the charter flight without its full cost being met, and this certainly is well outside its customer credit policy. The Fijivillage also reported the FLP said this was unbelievable and asked if the airline is now being coerced to grant favors to select religious groups.
Not true says Fiji Airways
Within hours of all that being published, Fiji Airways released a statement “to address certain concerns raised in the media regarding the operation of the recent charter flight to Israel.”
The airline emphasized the charter was based purely on commercial considerations and was a sound decision as it had some excess widebody capacity available. It added that operating charter flights is one way to utilize this excess aircraft to generate additional revenue.
Perhaps the most inflammatory comments from the opposition party are around the claim that a Government Minister had pressured the airline into providing the charter. The Fiji Airways statement addressed that point by saying:
“Fiji Airways would also like to clarify that at no point did any Government Minister or other Government official exert any influence or pressure on the airline to operate this charter. The decision was made independently by Fiji Airways.
“Fiji Airways does not operate on the basis of political or religious favoritism. We treat all of our customers and charterers equally, and the decision to operate the charter was solely a business decision.”
Photo: Michael Doran I Simple Flying
Fiji Airways used an Airbus A330 for the charter, and its availability came after the arrival of the two new Airbus A350-900s that joined the fleet in recent weeks. The charter operator appears to have good standing as the airline said it has an established business relationship with the charterer, “who has a history of operating successful international charters and making timely payments for previous charter services.”
As would be expected the details of the deal between Fiji Airways and the charterer are confidential and not for publication. However, the airline said it can confirm that the charter is of commercial benefit to Fiji Airways, so it’s fair to assume they made a profit on the operation.
The airline also added it was proud of its collaborative effort with the government to safely repatriate its fellow Fijians from Israel and wanted to publicly acknowledge the Fiji Airways pilots and crew who operated this significant flight.