SUVA, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Fiji Airways, the island nation's national carrier, has decided on Friday to suspend 95 percent of its international flights until the end of May and may extend the suspension further if travel restrictions remain in place.
Speaking in a statement on Friday night, Fiji's Civil Aviation Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said that Fiji Airways had to make tough decisions due to reduced passenger numbers and global travel restrictions.
According to the minister, Fiji Airways will suspend all international flights until the end of May with the exception of twice-weekly services between Singapore and Nadi, Fiji. This is a 95 percent reduction in flights which has resulted in the airline implementing Leave Without Pay of four weeks between April and June for all employees. All senior management are taking a 35 percent pay cut.
Fiji Airways will operate one flight out of Nadi to Sydney, Australia on Saturday and another on Sunday. This route will then be suspended.
The airline will also fly once to Los Angeles, the United States on Saturday and Sunday with the last flight out of Los Angeles to reach Fiji on March 24, before suspending the service. Fiji Airways will operate the last return Auckland-Nadi service on March 22.
Fiji Airways will mount one-off recovery flights to allow citizens/residents to return home or to their point of origin. Recovery services to/from Tokyo (Narita) and Hong Kong, China are planned for March 27 and March 29 respectively.
The airline will be running some supplementary recovery flights to Auckland, Sydney and Los Angeles for any remaining passengers wanting to get back to their countries, as well as bring back home any Fijian nationals still in those cities.
For his part, Fiji Airways Managing Director Andre Viljoen said that these are necessary measures to navigate through the crisis as global border control measures make it nearly impossible to continue scheduled operations.
He also announced that the airline will work with all staff and employee organisations, as the company re-assesses its manpower requirements in light of the suspension decision.
The decision to suspend almost all its international flights, part of the airline's efforts to deal with the COVID-19 impact, is the most stringent scale back in Fiji Airways' 68-year history.