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Stefan Pichler talks Fiji Airways and beyond

Fiji Airways CEO Stefan Pichler shares his thoughts on their new campaign and what lies ahead for him and the Pacific Island carrier in an exclusive interview.

Fiji Airways CEO Stefan Pichler shares his thoughts on their new campaign and what lies ahead for him and the Pacific Island carrier in an exclusive interview.

The first thing you realise when you speak to Stefan Pichler is that this is a man on a mission. A man with serious passion and a genuine love of Fiji, its people and of making things happen.

It’s a deep-rooted love that has made his impending departure of Fiji Airways (in Feb 2015) back to the cooler climes of Germany to head up Air Berlin only more difficult, but it was a call up he couldn’t turn down.

“When I got the call from the German government I felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. It was an extremely difficult decision for me to have to make given just how much I have loved my time in Fiji. The people here are so special and it’s they who have really made the airline so successful”.

“Our new ‘Welcome to our Home’ campaign really highlights this point and just how it’s the Fijians themselves that are the airlines true, authentic point of difference”.
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The Six Monaghan kids are re-united in one of the three campaign stories

“Sure product is important but ultimately it’s the feeling you get when you engage with our staff or step on-board any of our planes and experience first hand their natural welcoming nature. It’s contagious and can’t help but make you feel special and relaxed. It’s all about slowing down and letting yourself be taken care of.

Our objective with the campaign was to bring this feeling to life as authentically as possible. Each of the three very extraordinary stories really has touched the hearts of the people. Already the feedback has been amazing with customers, staff and Fijians alike. It’s a major milestone for our marketing and shows just how far we’ve come as a brand in a short space of time”.

As a CEO who has delivered a stellar profit as well as the reinvention of in-flight services, a management re-structure, the re-brand of subsidiary Fiji Link (formally Pacific Sun), enhanced partnerships with the likes of Etihad and Qantas and an expanded network in his 1-year 5 months tenure at the airline, asking him about what his highlights have been seemed rather obvious.

But nevertheless his humble response was more about the underlying strategy and work of the universal Fiji Airways team, partners and Government that had begun long before he came on-board.

“It’s the team that are the standout for me as my biggest highlight. In a relatively short space of time we have assembled a solid foundation with great process and people and created a quality, profitable product to be benchmarked globally against much bigger players than us. That’s quite an achievement for any airline, never mind a small one in the relatively remote islands of the Pacific”.

“We have created numerous new roles for local Fijians across the entire airline including promoting five Fijians to GM level as well as distributing incentive payments back to all staff. It’s re-generated a sense of local pride in the national airline and set it up for a very bright future”.

I’ll certainly miss living in this beautiful place. Especially the lifestyle and the Fijian sense of humour.  I’ve been lucky enough to forge some wonderful friendships here with people. I’m a keen diver too and have been very spoilt with some incredible experiences at some of the best dive sites in the world”.

In terms of what comes next for Fiji Airways, Stefan excitedly shared the news of yet more expansion to the fleet and network coming soon.

“2015 will see the addition of two new aircraft. Another Boeing 737 and an Airbus A330. Consideration is also being given to network extensions in markets such as Australia and, or New Zealand, as well as Asia, but nothing is confirmed at this stage”.

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I finished our chat by asking Stefan, a former international standard marathon runner just how he’d coped with running in Fiji’s climate?

Laughing he responded “Coming from Kuwait where I lived previously it was 60 deg so this is nothing! You really couldn’t run at all outside there. But these days I do my running at the gym on the treadmill. It’s much easier”.

The marriage between Fiji and Stefan Pichler has clearly been a happy and fruitful one and despite his departing Fiji Airways it certainly doesn’t feel like his love or ties with Fiji will be leaving him anytime soon.

Have you flown Fiji Airways recently? How did you rate your experience?