Faced with the most financially tumultuous period in its 60 year history, the Air Pacific Board of Directors and the national airline’s major shareholders, the Fijian government and Qantas, sought a skilled businessman with extensive experience in the aviation sector to return the struggling airline to profitability. They found this individual in David Pflieger, a former attorney, pilot, and business leader who advanced from the law, safety, and flight operations departments of Delta Air Lines to serve as a founding officer and senior vice president at Virgin America.
Drawing on knowledge garnered over the course of more than two decades in the aviation industry, Mr. Pflieger orchestrated the complete turnaround and revitalization of Air Pacific, including its rebranding to Fiji Airways. While the company’s previous two years of operations had yielded operating losses in excess of $100 million, the new CEO managed to achieve an annual profit of $16 million in just two years.
One of the many elements of Fiji Airways’ extensive turnaround and rebranding was the expansion of its existing fleet. In 2013, Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama attended the maiden flight of the airline’s new Airbus A330-200s aircraft in Toulouse, France, marking a moment of great pride for the national carrier and the country as a whole.
After guiding the successful turnaround of Fiji Airways, David Pflieger opted not to renew his CEO contract when it concluded, so he could return to his family in the United States. Mr. Pflieger agreed, however, to remain on the Board of Fiji Airways and to help the airline search for a new leader who could carry on his legacy of success. In late 2013, with the airline completely fixed and revitalized, the Board and Mr. Pflieger appointed Stefan Pichler, formerly the CEO of Jazeera Airways, to the position of managing director and chief executive officer of Fiji Airways. Mr. Pichler had the honor of announcing how successful the airline turnaround he inherited had been when it declared record profits and profit sharing for all employees–all of which was due to three years of hard work, focus, and dedication by the team at Fiji Airways.