Air Travel. Some love it and know how to work the system to get the best fares, the best seats, and make their miles work for them. The industry makes headlines with business woos and woes, from increasing baggage fees and brand new aircraft (Inside Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner), to airline mergers and rebranding campaigns (American Airlines New Look). The latest news hits this week – on June 27, 2013, when Air Pacific officially becomes Fiji Airways. What does this mean? And is it PR or is there more to the story, and why now?
This is not the first time the national airline of Fiji was called “Fiji Airways.” In fact, this is just a return to its original 1958 name. The name change and rebranding (including a brand new fleet of Airbus A330s and newly designed logo) is the latest and final step in a turnaround plan that began in 2010.
The changes made thus far have culminated in reversing record losses and significantly growing passengers and revenue without increasing the size of the carrier’s fleet.
The new identity, which officially launches in the U.S. on June 27, is expected to enhance the customer experience as a whole and add authentic Fijian character to the brand, starting with the logo.
Celebrated Fijian Masi artist Makereta Matemosi created the tribal inspired designs that will now adorn the tail and engines of the new fleet. One of the new planes in fact was named Namuka-I-Lau after the tiny island where Matemosi was born and raised.
Matemosi and her family were aboard the 10-hour flight from LAX to Nadi when the second new plane was delivered to Fiji on May 23, 2013, followed by a grand celebration in the new Fiji Airways hangar at Nadi International Airport. The ceremony included a traditional kava ceremony and blessing, and a welcoming from the Prime Minister of Fiji, J.V. Bainimarama.
Pre-landing, the plane did a special low flyover some of the more remote islands that rarely, if ever, see such large aircraft flying over their paradise. Villagers were out to see the plane’s arrival flashing mirrors to the sky, reflecting the sun to give added sparkle to the arrival.
The first A330 was delivered in March 2013. Additional schedule, product and service enhancements will be rolled out through the rest of 2013, along with the delivery of the third Fiji Airways Airbus A330-200s (and the retirement of Air Pacific Boeing B747-400s and B767s). By the end of the year, the turnaround and brand transition will be complete. The A330s are a welcome change for travelers used to long-haul international flights that are equipped with in-seat power for computers and devices, as well as on-demand in-flight entertainment, which the aging 747s do not have.
Unlike many airline makeovers, this shift carries an emotional undertone that can only be felt or fully understood by speaking with a Fijian. The fact that the name of their tiny country made up of 333 islands and the authentic tribal designs will be seen in airports around the world is a source of great pride for the Fijians, many of whom can be brought to tears when discussing what this evolution means to them.
“The changeover represents an exciting future for the airline that is rooted in our more than 60-year history and service to the people of Fiji,” said Aubrey Swift, the airline’s Acting CEO.
“The brandmark symbolizes the airline’s new identity and epitomizes all that Fiji Airways represents. It is authentic, distinctive, and true to the airline’s Fijian roots. Fiji Airways will continue to be the country’s flying ambassador to the world, bringing the renowned Fijian hospitality to people across the globe.”
The goal, say airline executives, is to become the airline of choice of the South Pacific. From its hub at Nadi International Airport, Air Pacific and its subsidiary Pacific Sun currently fly to 15 cities in 10 countries. More routes and daily flights from LAX will be added throughout 2013.
Destinations include Australia, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Vanuatu, and Solomon Islands.
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