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DETAILS: Inter-Island Airways approved to operate in Fiji

American Samoa-based Inter Island Airways is now set up in Fiji and its operations, Inter Island Airways Fiji Limited, has been given the green light by the Fiji Civil Aviation Authority to operate domestic flights in the former British colony.

“We are obviously excited with the license approval. Now the hard work begins,” said Barney Sene, president and chief executive office of Inter Island Airways Fiji Ltd., via e-mail yesterday, responding to Samoa News inquiries. “With the license approval in Fiji now in place, we are working through our plans on when actual flights will begin.”

Asked about the possibility of flights between Pago Pago and Fiji in the near future, Sene said, “Our primary focus for now is to start up air service/flights between Pago Pago and Tonga this year.”

“Flights between Pago Pago and Suva would most likely begin next year once the Fiji domestic airline becomes operational in April/May 2013,” he added.

In a company news release, Sene said Civil Aviation Authority Air Transport Fiji Licensing Board awarded on Aug. 10 eleven licenses to Aviana Airways Corporation (dba “Inter Island Airways Fiji”) for that country’s domestic market as a “scheduled” air carrier serving routes such as Suva and Nadi airports as well as Suva and Labasa airports, along with two charter air service routes (for Suva and Leveku, Gau and Koro; and Labasa and Taveuni).

Sene said the awarding of these licenses opens the Fiji domestic market to a second domestic air carrier after Air Fiji ceased operations in 2009. The last time a scheduled domestic air carrier license was awarded was in the mid-1990’s.

He said the licensing approval process was very competitive, primarily from two local non-scheduled Fiji-based airlines and from the only scheduled domestic airline,  Pacific Sun. However, he said there was “large and overwhelming support” from hotels and resort operators, travel agencies, businesses and individuals from the Northern Islands (Labasa, Savusavu, and Taveuni).

With that support,  Inter Island Airways’ long-term business plan, and proposed new types of aircraft to be introduced into the Fiji travel market, the country’s Licensing Board “overwhelmingly approved” the airline’s application, he said and noted that the airline will now begin investing in the detail and heavy lifting work of bringing the new airline up and operational in Fiji over the next 6-8 months.

He said major activities involve the planned construction of a new large hangar and headquarter facilities at Suva Nausori Airport to house key operations, aircraft, recruitment of key line managers, pilots, maintenance & engineering personnel and  other staff members in Fiji; expected to swell to over 150 personnel.

According to the news release, the airline will utilize two 19-seater aircraft for the Fiji service — one a Beech 1900D plane, and the other a Dornier 228-212 plane.

Sene provided Monday new information about the airline’s fleet for the
star-up service. He said the company will be will be utilizing two (2)
Beech 1900D's, two (2) Dornier 228's, and two (2) Dornier 328 aircraft
- a total of six (6) aircraft on start-up.

The Fiji Tourism and travel market is expected to grow to over 1 million visitors by 2015 and Inter Island Airways is preparing to be a major force and contributor to that growth, the news release says.

Inter Island Airways Fiji will be a Fiji-based, Fiji-certificated airline in association with American Samoa-based Inter Island Airways, a FAA certified U.S. airline. The airline’s Fiji operations will be based at the Suva Nausori Airport.

Both airlines will franchise and maintain the “Inter Island Airways” brand name across the South Pacific, creating a regional airline that will eventually span from Fiji, Tuvalu, Marshall Islands, the Samoas, Tonga, Niue, and the Cook Islands.

Additionally both  will code-share flights once the regional routes begin and will share flight crew, personnel and facilities as it builds up the regional routes with common aircraft and facilities.