Before starting work for the World Bank in 2016, David (Dave) Pflieger served as the president, CEO, and member of the board for Hawaii Island Air in Honolulu. His accomplishments prior to that included being a founding officer of the highly successful Virgin America and leading a dramatic and highly successful restructuring and rebranding of Air Pacific into Fiji Airways. Passionate about sustainability and corporate responsibility, David Pflieger created Virgin America’s entire corporate sustainability program, and in Fiji he led Fiji Airways to support Fiji’s communities by financing the island's first wellness clinic focused on preventative medicine.
Fiji Airways partnered with Dr. Zen Low and his well-respected Medical Center to create the first-ever Health and Wellness clinic in the country. To this day, the clinic still focuses on common health problems in the community, including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. Many Fijians in their 30s and 40s suffer from heart attacks and strokes, and about four of every 10 adults on the island has diabetes.
Detecting these issues before they cause irreparable harm is key for preventing early death. It is for that reason that the Fiji Airways clinic offers free screenings with a doctor's referral to help patients find prevention strategies and alternate lifestyle choices that can prolong their life and well-being and allow them to beat the premature death norms that are so prevalent in Fiji.
After serving in the United States Air Force for over a decade, David “Dave” Pflieger leveraged his flight experience to work with commercial airlines such as Delta Air Lines, Song, Virgin America, and Air Pacific Ltd (which David rebranded and renamed to “Fiji Airways”).
Throughout his career, David Pflieger has promoted green practices both in and out of the office by supporting organizations such as the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES) in Fiji. Looking to protect the various ecosystems within the Mamanuca region, MES runs a number of programs that promote conservation, education, and sustainability. As part of its efforts, the organization hosts an array of awareness programming for members of the surrounding communities.
To educate local children about living sustainably, MES has operated its Marine Environment School Program since 2001. Designed specifically for children in grades six through eight, the program teaches young students about local natural resources and the significance of protecting them. Throughout the program, MES runs topically-driven lessons that cover everything from the types of animals that live in the Mamanuca islands to how humans affect coral reefs. MES also works diligently to inform those who are visiting the Mamanuca islands about the biodiversity of the local region.
Through its Resort Guest Presentation program, the organization works with some of the area’s top resorts to familiarize their guests with local species and ecosystems. In addition, MES informs visitors of the sustainability projects that it operates throughout the community.
On October 1, 2014, successful aviation business leader David Pflieger was hired by Mr. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, as a direct report to assume the roles of President and Chief Executive Officer at Island Air, an inter-island airline wholly owned by Ellison that operated throughout Hawaii. In addition to these positions, Mr. Pflieger accepted a seat on the company’s board of directors.
Prior to joining Island Air, David Pflieger demonstrated his business acumen with multiple successful airline turnarounds. He served as the President and CEO of Silver Airways in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after spending three years as the Managing Director and CEO of Fiji Airways, where he led an extensive turnaround and rebranding effort that transformed the company from a financially struggling airline to a prosperous international carrier honored multiple times by Condé Nast Traveler. Prior to his work in Fiji, Mr. Pflieger was a founding officer at Virgin America in San Francisco.
At Island Air, Dave Pflieger joined a company with a long history of service to Hawaiian communities. The firm began as a two-plane service under the name Princeville Airways in 1980, providing flights between Honolulu and Kauai. By 1987, the company had expanded its fleet to eight aircraft and assumed the name Aloha Island Air after its acquisition by Aloha Air Group. The airline received its FAA certification to operate large aircraft in 1995 and became an independent carrier soon after, passing into the ownership of Gavarnie Holding, LLC.
Following its successful turnaround in just 14 months by Mr. Pflieger, Island Air was sold to PacifiCap, LLC, the largest venture capital firm in Hawaii, and it continues to operate daily flights between Lihue, Kahului, Kona, and Honolulu. The airline also continues to support the broader Hawaiian community through a robust corporate responsibility program benefiting organizations such as the University of Hawaii and Best Buddies Hawaii, as well as the Explorers Program, a hands-on educational experience for young, aspiring aviation professionals.
In May 2013, the team at Air Pacific, now Fiji Airways, bid a fond farewell to the man who led them through a period of significant and positive transformation. Accomplished aviation business leader David Pflieger joined the company in 2010 as Managing Director and CEO, taking on the lofty task of rebranding and rejuvenating the struggling national airline. At the time of his appointment, Fiji Airways had been operating at a severe financial deficit for two years. Mr. Pflieger succeeded in restoring the airline to its former prosperity, accomplishing a financial turnaround from $91.8 million in losses to profits of $16.5 million in just two years.
In order to achieve this reversal, Mr. Pflieger introduced dramatic improvements to several of Fiji Airways’ operational areas, including customer service and on-time performance. He implemented a Key Performance Indicator program to encourage and promote excellence among front-line employees, offering up to $1,200 in annual bonuses per employee, in addition to establishing Fiji's first-ever profit-sharing plan for those outside of management positions.
The turnaround effort also featured a number of investments in the airline’s fleet, including the first-ever purchase of wide-body aircraft, the creation of a new corporate social responsibility program which served Fijian communities in a variety of ways, partnering with organizations such as the Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) and the Mamanuca Environmental Society, as well as establishing Fiji's first-ever Wellness Clinic to promote health among employees and Fiji residents.
David Pflieger’s many accomplishments helped to elevate the reputation of Fiji Airways worldwide, attracting attention from international banks and multiple other partners. The carrier also earned a Condé Nast Traveler’s ranking as one of the top 10 small airlines in the world. As Mr. Pflieger departed Nadi, Fiji, for his new position in Miami, Florida, he drew praise from the airline's unions and the Fiji Airways board for his employee-focused turnaround strategy and dedicated leadership. As stated by Air Pacific chairman Nalin Patel, “Having successfully restored the airline to profitability in just two years, and revitalized and re-branded the airline in just three, Dave has earned the respect of all of his employees and Fijians everywhere.”
About David Pflieger
David Pflieger - Senior Airline Executive