David “Dave” Pflieger is an airline executive with a history of successful turnarounds and restructuring campaigns. Outside of his professional pursuits, David Pflieger enjoys golfing.
In the game of golf, hitting a fairway wood requires a great deal of patience and control. Players often attempt to sweep the ball up off the fairway, resulting in poor contact between the ball and club. Most teachers recommend positioning the ball slightly forward of your stance, allowing you to hit down on the ball. When the fairway wood bottoms out at the right position, the natural loft of the club will lift it off the ground as intended.
Just like driving off of a tee, hitting a fairway wood requires a smooth swing to avoid losing control of the club. While it may seem like you need to hack away at the ball to achieve the proper loft, this extra strength can actually result in more mishits. With enough practice, you will learn how fast you can swing the fairway wood without losing control.
As President & CEO of Ravn Air Group in Alaska, David “Dave” Pflieger has held executive positions at seven different airlines including Delta Air Lines, Song, Virgin America, Fiji Airways, Silver Airways, and Larry Ellison’s Hawaii Island Air.
During his tenure at Virgin America, David Pflieger led the company to become the first airline in the U.S. to register its greenhouse gas emissions. More specifically, Virgin America was the first airline in the country to report its third-party verified carbon footprint in accordance with the globally accepted standards of The Climate Registry in 2008. The greenhouse gas emissions reported represented the environmental emissions from the entire Virgin America organization, including flight, ground, and corporate operations. The data was gathered with the help of the EPA to identify the sources of emissions, devise ways to reduce emissions, and track progress.
This practice of reporting greenhouse gas emissions helped the airline track and significantly reduce its greenhouse gas footprint. Notably, in its first year of reporting, Virgin America’s organization-wide carbon emissions per 1,000 seat miles were 166.24 metric tons.
Six years later in 2014, the organizations’ carbon emissions per 1,000 seat miles were down to 133.80 metric tons.
In addition, once the company realized that older fleets were neither fuel efficient nor good for the environment — due to high carbon emissions— it made a huge investment in new aircraft and a younger fleet.
As a result of that decision, Virgin now has one of the country’s youngest fleets, which consumes, on average, 15 percent less fuel and has 15% lower GHGs than other domestic U.S. fleets.
With extensive experience as a senior executive, pilot, and attorney at airlines that include Delta, Song, Virgin America, and Silver Airways, David (Dave) Pflieger most recently served as CEO, president, and board member of Larry Ellison’s airline–Hawaii Island Air.
Prior to that, however, David Pflieger’s biggest accomplishment was the turnaround and rebranding of Air Pacific, which Dave renamed to Fiji Airways. The airline was rebranded to Air Pacific in 1970 in order to promote its South Pacific Island joint nation ownership. Unfortunately, a dated fleet, increasing losses, and intense competition to Fiji from Australian and New Zealand low cost carriers Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Air New Zealand, who were offering cheaper flights to tourists in 2008 and 2009, caused the airline, which is majority owned by Fiji’s government, to take a major hit. The airline’s heavy reliance on the Australian and New Zealand tourist market created a perfect storm that made conditions at the struggling airline so dire that by 2010, Air Pacific reported the worst losses in its history and was almost broke.
Despite those challenges, Dave Pflieger and his new management team, led the company through a major restructuring that included cost cutting, revenue improvement, and much improved customer service – all of which combined to allow Air Pacific to bounce back into the black by 2012 – just two years later. That task complete, the airline was then renamed Fiji Airways, and it expanded its reach to US tourists, as well as those from China with its brand new fleet of Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 jets. Since 2013, with a unique new livery/paint scheme on its new planes, the company has continued to grow and achieve ever increasing record profits with an expanding fleet of new planes and more flights to Australia, New Zealand, the US, China, Singapore, and beyond.
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.