Why A Fiji Airways Boeing 737 Was Spotted In Great Britain

A Fiji Airways 737 ventured far from home over the weekend, flying to Teeside Airport in County Durham, England. For over two decades, the plane, DQ-FJF, sported Fiji Airway’s distinctive livery. But over the weekend, the leased aircraft was returned to its owners. It was a long flight, taking nearly two days and involving three stops along the way.

The Fiji Airways crew in the United Kingdom after returning DQ-FJF to its lessor. Photo: Fiji Airways

After 22 years, Fiji Airways Boeing 737NG DQ-FJF goes back to its lessor

DQ-FJF went to Fiji Airways in 1998. But back then, the airline was called Air Pacific, and the plane featured the bright yellow, blues, and reds of that branding. It was the first Boeing 737 Next Generation plane to join the Nadi-based airline. Fiji Airways also says DQ-FJF was the first 737 Next Generation aircraft to get based in the southern hemisphere.

The aircraft got used on specific routes out of Suva, including to Tarawa, Auckland, Sydney, and Christmas Island. Over the years, DQ-FJF flew 66087 total aircraft hours with Fiji Airways and operated 23,232 cycles. The plane became a mainstay of the Fiji Airways fleet.

With the lease finished, the airline decided to send the plane back to its owners. That saw Fiji Airways head out way beyond its usual turf in the Pacific. On Friday, September 18, DQ-FJF left Nadi after lunch and made the six-hour flight north to Honolulu. That sector covered a distance of just over 5,000 kilometers.

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DQ-FJF in 1999 in Air Pacific livery. Photo: Ken Fielding via Flickr

Fiji Airways brings some variety to North American airspace

Because the flight crossed the international dateline, DQ-FJF touched down in Honolulu on September 17. The aircraft then headed out of Honolulu later that evening and tracked over to Los Angeles, landing in the early hours of September 18. That flight took just under five hours and covered a distance of over 4,100 kilometers.

Fiji Airways aircraft don’t usually push on past Los Angeles.  But after a rest day, DQ-FJF overflew mainland United States, adding a bit of variety to North American airspace. After five-plus hours in the air and covering 4,360 kilometers, DQ-FJF landed in Bangor, Maine, just in time for breakfast on Sunday, September 20.

Fiji Airways pilots standing in front of DQ-FJF. Photo: Fiji Airways

From there, it was a final push across the North Atlantic to Teeside Airport. The plane pushed back around 08:45 local time on Sunday morning for the five and a half hour, 4,780-kilometer flight to the airport in County Durham. It touched down just after 19:00 that evening, local time. There ended DQ-FJF’s 22 years of flying for Fiji Airways.

One less plane Fiji Airways has to worry about

Fiji Airways says four experienced B737 pilots helmed the flight. Also onboard were two engineering crew. Fiji Airways has kindly provided Simple Flying with several images from DQ-FJF’s final flight and the people who kept the plane flying.

Some of the many Fiji Airways employees who kept DQ-FJF flying for 22 years. Photo: Fiji Airways

That leaves Fiji Airways with just four Boeing 737s. All of them sit parked. Fiji Airways is a small airline with just 12 jets in its fleet. Only two of them are now flying; an Airbus A330 and an Airbus A350 XWB. Usually, Fiji Airways might be looking to replace or keep DQ-FJF. But in this environment, returning the plane to its owners means the airline has one less plane to maintain and now saves on the costs with doing so.

But after so long, and with such a small fleet, sending a plane back is always a bit sad. DQ-FJF was a plane many of us had taken a ride on over the years, and it served Fiji Airways well.