A few days before returning to America to begin the next leg of his career at Miami-based Silver Airways, former Fiji Airways executive David Pflieger was asked to join his staff at the company’s hangar in Nadi, Fiji. The event was planned as a send-off for the widely-acclaimed aviation business leader, who three years prior had accepted a contract to serve as the firm’s managing director and CEO. When Dave arrived in 2010, he faced the daunting task of leading the company out of a significant financial crisis, but he ultimately succeeded at orchestrating a turnaround that positioned Fiji Airways as a successful and internationally competitive company.
Mr. Pflieger described the privilege and honor of working with the skilled Fiji Airways team, who in turn highlighted many of the accomplishments achieved under his leadership. With David Pflieger at the helm, the airline brought in $16.5 million in annual profits just a few years after reporting losses of $91.8 million. Behind this impressive renewal were improvements to customer service and reliability, which included a large investment in the airline’s new fleet—the first-ever fleet of purchased wide-body aircraft. Fiji Airways also increased its investment in its employees, establishing first-ever performance-incentive and profit-sharing programs.
One of the more noteworthy changes introduced during the Fiji Airways turnaround was the establishment of a corporate social responsibility program. In addition to formalizing the airline’s commitment to causes such as the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) and the Mamanuca Environment Society, the initiative led to the development of Fiji’s first-ever community health & wellness clinic.
The numerous improvements spearheaded by Mr. Pflieger during his time at Fiji Airways helped it to establish a global reputation for performance quality and customer service. During his tenure, the airline received its first accolades from Condé Nast Traveler, making the publication’s list of the Top 10 Small Airlines for two consecutive years.
An airline committed to corporate social responsibility, Virgin America maintains a strong commitment to nonprofits in and around its Northern California headquarters. They include Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), which raises funds for interdisciplinary research into cancer treatments. SU2C’s fundraising work is notable in that it attempts to enable researchers to work collaboratively, thus minimizing the duplication of effort and moving the research cycle forward more quickly. In addition, it promotes higher-stakes research projects that could have a significant impact.
As part of its deep involvement in the Bay Area community, Virgin America supports San Francisco Animal Care and Control, which works to find homes for neglected and abused dogs and cats. Over the past six years, the airline has flown dozens of Chihuahua puppies from its San Francisco hub across the country and into the waiting arms of their new families.
Virgin’s other nonprofit partners include Make-A-Wish Greater Greater Bay Area, one of the largest chapters of the national group, which grants special wishes to children with terminal illnesses. Through Make-A-Wish, Virgin has hosted numerous children and their families as VIP guests aboard flights to their chosen destinations.
Virgin America made history in 2009 by becoming the first American airline to commit to reporting its greenhouse gas emissions. The California-based airline announced its decision to join the Climate Registry, a nonprofit organization dedicated to standardizing the accurate measurement and reporting of carbon emissions, joining a diverse group of environmentally conscious organizations that now total over 300. Overseen by a board of directors comprising a number of North American states and provinces, the Climate Registry collects greenhouse gas emissions data from its member organizations on a yearly basis, holding each to the same comprehensive and transparent reporting standards.
As the only airline based in California, Virgin America took a natural interest in weaving sustainable practices into the heart of its business operations, noted David Pflieger, then Virgin America’s senior vice president of legal, government affairs, and sustainability. Previously, Dave Pflieger guided Virgin America to become a pioneer of sustainability in October 2008, when the passenger airline became the first in its sector to take part in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders initiative. Due to its more recent commitment to the Climate Registry, the airline bolstered its sustainability efforts by agreeing to provide more extensive emissions reports that reflect adherence to the registry’s heightened guidelines.
The strict monitoring and transparent reporting of greenhouse gas emissions is just one of many sustainable initiatives adopted by Virgin America, which has operated with a commitment to environmental sustainability since its inception in 2007. In addition to emissions-reducing innovations such as single engine taxing, cost index flying, and advanced avionics, the carrier introduced a new fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft boasting 25 percent more C02 efficiency than comparable fleets.
Dave Pflieger has held a number of executive roles in the aviation industry since 2002, most recently joining Island Air as the president and CEO as of September 2014. Shortly after his appointment, Dave Pflieger was instrumental in leading the company’s involvement in Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
This past October, Island Air joined the Susan G. Komen Hawaii affiliate in its efforts to provide screening and essential treatments for breast cancer. Island Air, which provides more than 250 weekly interisland flights between Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and Lanai, sponsored flight fees for patients receiving treatment for breast cancer, incurring no cost to families or the nonprofit.
Up to 75 percent of the nonprofit’s income goes directly to supporting community education and treatment programs for medically underserved women, but the travel costs associated with flying to Oahu for repeated screenings and treatments represent a significant barrier to individuals in economically disadvantaged communities. By partnering with the charity, Island Air continues to lend its support to Hawaii locals in their fight against cancer.