Last updated: 10:35 AM ET, Tue April 12 2016

Could New Air Service Make Fiji The Next Pacific Hotspot?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | April 12, 2016

Could New Air Service Make Fiji The Next Pacific Hotspot?

Fiji is an exotic destination for U.S.-based travelers. It is more far-flung than Hawaii and less crowded than Tahiti, but it still has all the requisite allure with plenty of private island resorts, deserted beaches and warm clear water. 

There is one major problem for American travelers who have Fijian dreams: the islands that make up this place are very difficult to get to from North America. Flights are extremely limited, and the best option is to connect in Australia or New Zealand rather than flying direct. 

However, that could soon change. 

More flights from the U.S. to Fiji

Yes, Fiji is well connected with Australia and New Zealand. The islands’ flag carrier, Fiji Airways, has a number of routes to Southern Hemisphere hubs in Oceania as well as to neighboring island nations in the South Pacific. 

No U.S.-based carriers fly to Fiji and Fiji Airways currently only has one route to the United States, from Los Angeles to the islands' main gateway, Nadi International Airport. 

However, there are now plans to add a second U.S.-Fiji route. This summer, Fiji Airways will move into San Francisco International. The plan is to provide seasonal service going forward. Flights will begin on June 13 and run through mid-August. This summer service will be twice weekly. Service will restart again over the holidays with twice-weekly flights between December 15 through January 15. 

These flights will open up Fiji to more American travelers, but the frequency of the service is not enough to make the South Pacific nation an alternative to more popular destinations like Tahiti or Hawaii. 

Signs of growth to come?

That said, it seems like the SFO flights could be an early sign of an effort by the airline and the country to expand beyond their traditionally busy routes to Australia and New Zealand. 

Fiji Airways has just launched service from Singapore to Nadi International. Like the coming San Francisco flights, the service to the city-state will run twice per week. Both these flights could be part of an effort to bring more visitors to Fiji. 

Could two weekly flights make a huge difference in the number of arrivals? No, but they could help the tourism industry's bottom line. Fiji has a number of high-value, low-volume resorts, like Laucala Private island, which was created by Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz. So low-frequency-flights could help the tourism industry by bringing high paying tourists to Fiji. 

The main passenger base

In both the Singapore and California, however, Fiji has another target customer: overseas Fijians. These twice-a-week flights will target Fijians, Tongans and Samoans living overseas. The airline’s CEO, Andre Viljoen, explained the strategy of targeting both expats and tourists when the SFO flights were first announced late last year: “The seasonal flying takes into account common vacation trends out of the United States. Along with the Fijian community, the Samoan and Tongan communities living in San Francisco are also big winners with this direct service. It will offer them a convenient one-stop flight back to their homeland to see family and friends.”

This strategy could work in American tourists’ favor. The airline would probably be able to raise fares if they were only serving tourists headed to high end resorts. With many passengers being expats returning to Fiji (or using Fiji as a gateway to other nearby island nations), fares could remain relatively low.  

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