4 Jul 2013

UFDF wants answers on Fiji Airways "serious operational issues"

4:54 pm on 4 July 2013

The Fiji political grouping, the United Front for Democratic Fiji, says Fiji Airways and the government need to answer serious questions about the operation and commission of the national carrier's new Airbuses.

A Front member and leader of the Fiji Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the issues could impact Fiji's tourism industry.

He spoke to Mary Baines.

MAHENDRA CHAUDHRY: There are issues concerning the manner in which the aircraft was purchased. Transactions have not been transparent. The sudden switch from Boeing to Airbus was also not explained to the people of Fiji. We believe that the recommendation of the board and other experts who advised the board was not to switch, but continue to use Boeing aircraft. Then there is the question of the commission, which is reportedly paid by Airbus. We want to know who received this commission. We understand that this commission has not come into the revenue of Fiji Airways so we want to know where did that commission go? Thirdly, we want to know who were the agents who actually handled the purchase and what was paid to them, and how was this process done? So these are some questions with regard to the purchase of the aircraft.

MARY BAINES: You've also mentioned some operational issues.

MC: We don't have sufficient numbers of trained personnel to operate the Airbus. As a result, a number of flights have either had to be cancelled or considerably delayed on account of crew shortage. And this is, of course, contributing to huge operating losses. When the first aircraft arrived, even then we did not have sufficient numbers of crew trained to operate on the scheduled flight programme for this aircraft. Now we've got two and a third is due in November, and there's absolute chaos there. So these are issues which, of course, need to be explained. We know the chaos that is created at Nadi International Airport virtually every week when passengers are delayed, flights are cancelled. They have to overstay, they are booked into hotels. It's a great deal of inconvenience. It's giving a bad name to Air Pacific and to the Fiji tourism industry.

MB: So have you taken these questions to Fiji Airways or the government?

MC: We have questioned the government to come out clean and inform the public of fiji why this is happening. And then, to top it all off, the chief executive who did all this, David Pflieger, he disappeared soon after the first aircraft arrived. And we believe that he didn't do his full contract and we want to know why did he leave. So these are issues which are sort of shrouded in mystery, as far as we are concerned, and we want the mystery unravelled.