Amidst a continuing tumult for the global travel industry, Fiji Airways celebrated a major milestone unobtrusively, quietly. From 1951, the airline completed 70 years of operations the first of September. The feat, and it is such now even without COVID-19 thrown in the mix, is mighty. But the many decades obscure the feats and milestones set by South Pacific’s very own airline. Therefore, it deserves a look-back with pride at the years Fiji Airways has been flying this part of the world.
It’s not an obscure fact that the airline was the brainchild of intrepid Aussie aviator Harold Gatty back in 1947. But… did you know that he christened Fiji Airways as Katafaga Estates back then? It took its first official flight in 1951 and flew successfully across Fiji till Gatty’s death in 1958. Then Qantas picked up the young airline, named it Fiji Airways and trained it up for international flights. However, the first international flight didn’t happen until June 1973, and the lucky destination was none other than Brisbane, Australia.
At one point of time in the rollicking 70s, this airline was co-owned by seven South Pacific nations. To showcase its regional identity, it was even re-branded as Air Pacific. As time passed and flights racked up, the Fiji government and Qantas upped their stake till they were the two major shareholders in the airline. Interestingly, another bit of cool trivia is that the headquarters of Fiji Airways was first in Nausori, where Fiji’s second international airport is set. It was only when the Fijian government saw the potential in tourism and invested in a state-of-the-art airline maintenance and servicing hub in Nadi that the airline shifted to this buzzing coastal town as its main ‘quarters.
The Air Pacific continued till the airline bought out Sun Air, turned it into its domestic arm called Fiji Link and rebranded itself as what we know it now – Fiji Airways. (Enthusiastic clapping!)
Back then, Gatty started off with two small de Havilland aircraft, a Dragon Rapide and an Australia DHA-3 Drover aircraft. The first was a short-haul passenger biplane, while the latter was a tri-propeller cargo bird. From that propitious start, the airline now operates around 20 fixed-wing and turbo-prop aircraft, covering over 108 cities via its codeshare partners.
Fiji Airways has been the most connected airline in the region throughout its history, linking to more Pacific Island countries than any other carrier. It flies directly to Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore, and regionally to Tonga, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu. Its wider network through its oneworld and bilateral partner airlines increases the airline’s reach to 108 destinations worldwide.
The airline is the only one in the Australia-Pacific region, and one of only a handful in the world, to achieve a Skytrax 5-Star COVID Safety rating (ooh, ooh – we covered it, if you want to read the article on it.). Additionally, it has also bagged the highest ‘Diamond’ or Hospital Grade certification for APEX Health Safety powered by Simpliflying. Fiji Airways is waiting for the country’s tourism body and the government to announce border opening with its ‘Fly Ready’ campaign. It’s a long flight down the years, but the journey continues – Fiji Airways is ready for countries to open borders and travellers to start flying for business, travel, leisure and more. And now, in tune with the times, it is safer than ever before.
Check out our other blogs on Fiji Airways and on COVID updates from resorts in the South Pacific, while you’re at it too. Our South Pacific Specialists keep on penning travel articles, blogs, listicles and more regularly on a range of topics that as as wide-ranging as it’s colourful – have a go at them.
Getting ready for when Australia, New Zealand and the world will start visiting Fiji’s fair…
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