Touchdown: More Boeing 737 MAXs Land At Fiji Airways

Fiji Airways has taken delivery of two more Boeing 737 MAX-8s, with both touching down in Nadi last week. The planes winged their way from Seattle to Fiji via Honolulu last week. It brings the total number of 737 MAXs at Fiji Airways to four and leaves one MAX yet to be delivered.

Two more 737 MAXs arrived at Fiji Airways last week. Photo: Boeing

Two flights last week from Seattle via Honolulu for 737 MAXs

The two MAXs heading to Fiji last week were DQ-FAE and DQ-FAH. DQ-FAE left Seattle’s Boeing Field early in the evening of Tuesday, May 25. The flight operated as FJ2201. DQ-FAE landed in Honolulu later on Tuesday evening and overnighted. On Wednesday afternoon, the 737-MAX departed Honolulu for the six-and-a-half-hour flight down to Fiji Airways’ home port of Nadi.

On Thursday, May 27, DQ-FAH left Boeing’s Field in Seattle, landing in Honolulu later that evening. After overnight, DQ-FAH continued onto Nadi on Friday, landing early in the evening. This flight operated as FJ2203.

Fiji Airways received its first two MAX-8s, DQ-FAB and DQ-FAD in late 2018 and planned to deploy them around the Pacific, particularly on flights to New Zealand and Australia. Like most MAX operators, the subsequent global grounding of the MAXs caught Fiji Airways on the hop.

Arguably, the MAX groundings had a far bigger proportional financial and operational impact on smaller operators like Fiji Airways than on bigger operators like American Airlines. Fiji Airways sent DQ-FAB and DQ-FAD to storage in Alice Springs.

Fiji Airways’ grounded 737 MAX planes are in storage in Alice Springs (top left). Photo: Getty Images

Flights grounded in Fiji

The Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji cleared the 737 MAX to fly again in Fiji in early April. But other than ferry flights, Fiji Airways’ MAXs aren’t flying anywhere at the moment. Regular tourist traffic between Fiji and its big Australian and New Zealand markets is at a halt with borders closed in all three countries. As a result, Fiji Airways has sparkling new MAXs but nowhere to fly them.

If that was the only problem at Fiji Airways, the airline’s executives would probably cheer. It has been little reported but with Fiji’s borders closed and continuing restrictions on movement around Fiji, the national carrier has canceled virtually all flights until mid-June.

Citing “compliance with the ongoing movement restrictions and passenger flight suspension directives in Fiji,” domestic and international Fiji Airways and Fiji Link flights are canceled until June 12.

Typically, Fiji Link operates Fiji Airways’ domestic flights around the Fijian islands using a handful of ATR 72s. The better-known Fiji Airways brand mostly sticks to international services. For much of the last year, Fiji Airways has operated a scaled-back schedule of repatriation-style flights around the Pacific rim. But they too are now on pause.

Fiji Airways’ MAXS were to fly to Australia and New Zealand. Photo: Wellington Airport Newsroom

Fiji Airways MAXs may fly from mid-June

All that’s on offer between now and June 12 are three “special” flights that operate to get non-Fijian nationals home – diplomatic staff, NGO employees, and the like. There is a flight to Brisbane on June 4, Sydney on June 5, and Los Angeles on June 10.

“Passengers must note that operating these special flights is extremely costly for Fiji Airways,” warns Fiji Airways. “Government authorities require all pilots and cabin crew to enter 14-day quarantine after the flight (even for one-way flights departing Fiji). These quarantine costs are borne by Fiji Airways, not the Fijian Government.

“As a result, the fares for these flights are higher than those of repatriation flights. Some flights to Australia, for example, are also capacity restricted allowing only 25 – 30 travelers per flight, further driving up the cost per passenger.”

Fiji Airways is tentatively scheduling some international flights to resume from June 12. Australia has approved the MAX flying again in its airspace so Boeing’s most controversial aircraft may start flying in from Fiji from mid-June.