David Pflieger Leaves Behind Legacy of Prosperity at Fiji Airways

Fiji Airways pic
Fiji Airways
Image: fijiairways.com

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.


Fiji Airways Sees Improvements after One Year of Turnaround Efforts

David Pflieger
David Pflieger

From 2008 to 2010, Fiji’s Air Pacific airline experienced a period of record financial losses and significantly reduced market share. However, after just one year under new leadership, the national carrier was already showing significant signs of recovery.

In an October 2012 interview with the CAPA-Centre for Aviation, Air Pacific CEO and Managing Director David Pflieger outlined many of the airline’s recent accomplishments, as well as the various challenges left for it to surmount, as it headed into the final leg of its three-stage transformation initiative.

Among the obstacles still facing the company were fluctuating fuel costs, an unstable global economic climate, and regional competition. However, while companies such as Jetstar and Virgin Australia had recently taken a firmer hold on the sector, Dave Pflieger guided the company to solidify its position as a major international carrier, increasing the frequency of flights to major cities including Sydney, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. One of the final stages of the massive rebranding saw the airline revert to the name it had used prior to 1958: Fiji Airways. Pflieger noted that, in addition to highlighting the firm’s role as a quality national carrier, the name change would help to position Fiji as an attractive tourism destination as its fleet traveled the globe.

David Pflieger’s accomplishments with Air Pacific, now operating as Fiji Airways, included making new investments to improve the onboarding experience and introducing new, custom-designed Airbus A330-200 aircraft to the carrier’s fleet. He also revitalized the staff with incentive plans and social responsibility initiatives, and forged a partnership with Tourism Fiji in an effort to strengthen the entire travel sector. While 2010 marked one of the airline’s worst years in over six decades of operation, the $9.2 million in profits it earned in fiscal year 2012 indicated that it was well on its way to recovery.

Virgin America Makes History with Carbonfund.org Partnership

carbonfund.org pic
Image: carbonfund.org

In December 2008, Virgin America took new measures to ensure the environmental efficiency of its operations, becoming the first airline to allow passengers to offset their carbon emissions via in-flight touch screens. In a move guided by senior vice president David Pflieger, whose contributions to the airline included the creation of its numerous sustainability initiatives, the carrier partnered with carbon offset provider Carbonfund.org to offer passengers new options to reduce their carbon footprint.

Virgin America has operated with a commitment to sustainability since its inception, drawing on advanced avionics, cost index flying, and similar innovations to limit its environmental impact. With the announcement of its partnership with Carbonfund.org, the California-based air carrier invited its customers to join its efforts to preserve the environment. The carrier announced two new ways for customers to offset the CO2 emissions of their flight, first introducing the option on its ticket confirmation web page and later adding carbon offsetting to the touch-screen entertainment systems located on aircraft seatbacks.

With each pledge to offset their carbon emissions, passengers make a contribution to one of a number of carbon offset projects jointly chosen by Virgin America and Carbonfund.org. Vetted as environmentally impactful, these renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives carry the potential to spur measurable reductions in global carbon emissions. Initial offset projects included the Inland Empire Utilities Agency Biodigester, a Chino Basin, California, methane capture-and-elimination project capable of eliminating 8,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year, and IdleAire, which provides in-cabin electricity at truck stops to reduce drivers’ diesel fuel consumption and corresponding carbon emissions.

An Overview of Island Air and Its Future

Island Air pic
Island Air
Image: islandair.com

Formerly the President and CEO of Hawaii Island Air, Inc. (Island Air), David “Dave” Pflieger led and oversaw highly effective restructuring, turnaround, and sale of Hawaii’s second largest airline in just 15 months. Dave Pflieger’s efforts and successful results were commended by the airline’s current owner and its new investors PaCap Aviation Finance, LLC, and Malama Investments, LLC. both of which are managed by Hawaii’s largest venture capital investment firm, PacifiCap.

Operating flights from Oahu to Maui and Lanai, Island Air is Hawaii’s largest regional airline. Having acquired new majority owners in early 2016, the airline now plans to boost the size of its fleet with additional aircraft that will allow it to expand to other neighbor island destinations. It was for that reason that Dave Pflieger and the new management team recently announced that Island Air would grow its network in mid-March with the addition of six new roundtrip flights between Lihue airport in Kauai and Honolulu in Oahu.

Originally founded as Princeville Airways, Island Air has served Hawaii for more than 35 years. The airline currently provides 224 flights weekly, and its primary aircraft, the ATR-72, accommodates 64 passengers, who are able to benefit from the airline’s low fares while traveling to neighboring islands. For more information about the corporation, visit www.islandair.com.