PUBLISHED 16 SEPTEMBER 2019
Fiji Airways made yesterday’s Sunday newspapers when they criticised a plan by shareholder Qantas to increase its services between Sydney and Nadi later in 2019.
It has caused a ripple because Qantas owns 46% of Fiji Airways and the two airlines have a close working relationship.
Fiji Airways does well on the Fiji-Australia route. The airline carries 56% of the 76,875 passengers who flew between the two countries in the past year.
That could rise when Fiji Airways rolls out their A350-900s on the Sydney route from January 1, 2020.
After a long absence, Qantas returned to Fiji earlier in 2019. Qantas currently runs four Boeing 737-800 services a week between Sydney and Nadi. QF101 heads over to Fiji on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. QF102 heads back to Sydney on the evening on the same days.
According to Nine Media, Qantas has applied to increase this to a daily service.
And that has raised the ire of Fiji Airways
Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljeon criticised Qantas in Fiji’s FBC News. Viljeon argues Qantas is increasing flights when visitor numbers to Fiji have flatlined, the move will put excess capacity on the route decreasing yields, and that Qantas also does okay out of its codeshare agreement with Fiji Airways.
Qantas for its part says increased flights will stimulate traffic, visitor numbers, and ultimately benefit the Fijian economy.
Qantas subsidiary Jetstar also offers several A320-200 flights a week between Sydney and Nadi. The other competitor on the route is Virgin Australia who fly to Nadi from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. Virgin are the second biggest player on the route with a 31% market share. Virgin flights offer a niche opportunity for fans of their wide body business class product. Whilst they fly daily from Brisbane, their Sunday service (VA173) is on an A330. It’s a similar deal out of Sydney where the Saturday service (VA181) is also on an A330.
While it’s understandable Fiji Airways want to protect its home turf, their complaints about Qantas have an anti-competitive ring to them.
There are always some diehard Qantas loyalists and frequent flyers, but why would you sit on a cramped Qantas 737 when by New Year, Fiji Airways will have nice spacious wide bodied A350s on the Sydney route and Virgin has its weekly A330 services? Notably, less rusted on Qantas frequent flyers can redeem points seats on Fiji Airways.
I know which seat I would prefer. Ultimately, competition is good for everybody and given Fiji Airways better aircraft on the route and more frequent services between Australia and Fiji, they probably don’t have too much to worry about.