It was 70 years ago on the 1st September 1951 that Fiji Airways (FJ) flew its first-ever flight, with founder Harold Gatty’s 7-seater De Havilland Dragon Rapide, piloted by Captain Fred Ladd, taking off from Fiji’s Luvuluvu airstrip (Nausori) to Drasa Airport (near Lautoka).
From the bumpy one-hour Dragon Rapide flight 70 years ago to operating 20 jet and turbo-prop aircraft today, Fiji Airways has grown into an international airline with an extended network to 108 destinations globally.
FJ has since been the most connected airline in the region throughout its history, linking to more Pacific Island countries than any other carrier.
Prior to the pandemic, the airline flew 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.
Add to that its wider network through its oneworld and bilateral partner airlines and it increased the airline’s reach to 108 destinations worldwide.
Thankfully, it won’t be long now before FJ can take to the skies once more.
Mr Rajesh Punja, Fiji Airways Chairman said: “Fiji Airways has consistently broken new ground for 70 years, creating a bridge for Fiji to the world and the world to Fiji. COVID has grounded commercial flying temporarily, but cannot wipe our 70-year history. We thank our predecessors, our people, and partners old and new for their commitment and support over the years and we prepare to resume flying, hopefully in just a few months, and lead Fiji’s tourism and economic recovery.”
Addressing staff from their Nadi Head Office, Managing Director & CEO Mr Andre Viljoen said the National Airline draws strength from its 70-year history, to fight the current existential crisis caused by the COVID pandemic.
“While we are not celebrating our 70th anniversary, or FJ 70 as we call it, with fanfare, we are commemorating the occasion quietly to recognise how far we have come as an airline. Our grit and determination to survive and thrive, as we have done for 70 years, is the foundation on which our airline will return to the skies post-pandemic.”
He added: “The trailblazing achievements of our founder Harold Gatty created a legacy that has lasted seven consecutive decades. The commitment and resolve of our people, shareholders and partners will see us power through for another seven decades and more.”
Mr Viljoen continued: “The world has changed and there will be a new normal for travel when most countries reopen their borders and we are ready for it. Through our Travel Ready programme, Fiji Airways has attained two distinct awards that will give confidence to our customers when commercial flying resumes.”
Happy 70th birthday Fiji Airways from all of us at Karryon and we can’t wait to fly again with you very soon.
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