Fiji Airways plans to increase capacity in the Australia and New Zealand markets by up-gauging some flights from 737-800s to A330-200s. The airline recently expanded its A330-200 fleet, which will enable it to add capacity to several destinations.
- Fiji Airways recently took delivery of two A330-200s, increasing its A330 fleet from four to six aircraft;
- Fiji Airways has used one of the additional widebodies to launch Nadi-Tokyo Narita service and add one frequency to San Francisco and Singapore;
- Fiji Airways plans to eventually use the second additional A330 to up-gauge flights to Australia and New Zealand, in particular the early morning departure from Sydney;
- The two additional A330-200s are in a different configuration than Fiji’s existing A330-200s and will mainly be used on medium-haul routes to Australia and New Zealand.
Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen told CAPA last month that the airline in particular is looking to up-gauge the early morning departure from Sydney, which operates as Fiji Airways FJ914.
Fiji Airways has 14 to 19 weekly flights on the Sydney-Nadi route depending on the time of year. From Sydney, the two daily year-round flights include an early afternoon A330 departure and an early morning 737 departure which will likely be up-gauged within the next year. From Nadi, the daily 737 flight departs in the evening (and overnights in Sydney) while the A330 flight departs in the late morning.
The additional less than daily seasonal flight is operated with 737s and departs Nadi in the early morning and Sydney in the late morning. Fiji Airways also has one to two weekly flights between Sydney and Suva which operates with 737s. Sydney is Fiji Airways’ largest international market based on seat capacity.
Fiji Airways took delivery in May and June of two A330-200s, which the airline has named after the Fijian islands of Beqa and Vatulele. The additional aircraft have resulted in Fiji Airways growing its widebody fleet by 50%, from four to six A330s (including five A330-200s and one A330-300).
The two additional aircraft are in a different configuration and of a different vintage than the existing A330-200s. The two additional A330-200s are 12-year old aircraft in 254-seat configuration with 18 business class seats and 236 economy class seats. Fiji Airways’ original fleet of three A330-200s were delivered new to the airline in 2013 and are in 273-seat configuration with 24 business class and 249 economy class seats.
Fiji Airways’ only A330-300 was delivered new in 2015 and is in 313-seat configuration with 24 business and 289 economy seats. All six A330s have lie flat seats in business class with a 2x2x2 configuration but the seats and IFE are different on the two additional A330-200s, which were previously operated by Air Seychelles.
Fiji Airways considered retrofitting the two recently delivered aircraft but ultimately opted to take them in the inherited configuration because they are only being leased for four years. The short length of the leases will enable Fiji Airways to introduce new generation widebody aircraft early next decade. Fiji Airways has been evaluating the A330neo, A350 and 787 but as it will take a few years to secure delivery slots it decided to lease two second hand aircraft as an interim solution.
Mr Viljoen told CAPA the two additional A330s “has a bit of wasted space” but “we will live with it for now”. He added they are “concept aircraft” and will be used only to certain destinations, primarily medium haul routes to Australia and New Zealand.
The first additional A330 has provided Fiji Airways with the capacity to launch three weekly flights from Nadi to Tokyo Narita and introduce a third weekly flight on the Nadi-San Francisco and Nadi-Singapore routes. However, Fiji Airways intends mainly to use its newer 273-seat A330-200s on these three long haul routes, while deploying the older 254-seat A330-200s on medium haul routes to Australia and New Zealand. This means flights to Australia and New Zealand that were already operated with A330s will have a slight reduction in capacity as the 254-seat A330-200s are deployed.
Mr Viljoen said the second additional A330 will initially provide capacity to fill in for existing aircraft as Fiji Airways has heavy maintenance checks for its existing A330 fleet over the next nine months. However, eventually Fiji Airways plans to use the additional widebody capacity generated by the sixth A330 to up-gauge flights to Australia and New Zealand which are now operated by 737s.
In addition to Sydney, Fiji Airways currently operates a mix of 737s and A330s to Auckland and Melbourne. The Auckland-Nadi route is served with 10 to 16 weekly flights depending on the time of year and the Melbourne-Nadi route is generally served with seven weekly flights (once daily). The current Melbourne-Nadi schedule has six 737 frequencies and one A330 frequency while the current Auckland schedule has eight 737 frequencies and seven A330 frequencies.
Fiji Airways also operates two to three weekly frequencies between Auckland and Suva using 737s. Auckland is Fiji Airways’ second largest international market after Sydney.
In addition, Fiji Airways serves Adelaide and Brisbane in Australia and Christchurch and Wellington in New Zealand. However, all its flights in these smaller markets are operated with 737s.
While Fiji Airways now uses most of its available traffic rights in the Australia-Fiji bilateral, Mr Viljoen said there is still sufficient available capacity to up-gauge some flights. As Blue Swan has previously reported, Australian carriers will fully use their Fiji traffic rights during peak periods this summer. While Australia is keen to expand the air services agreement with Fiji, the Fijian government is not interested because its flag carrier prefers to maintain the status quo.