When David Pflieger ended his tenure as Managing Director and CEO of Air Pacific, he left behind a legacy of positive change and innovation. He accepted the role in 2010 after the company’s board which was comprised of Fiji government and Qantas representatives, overwhelmingly voted to recruit an experienced international airline executive to restore the ailing company back to profitability. While Dave was hired to simply turn the carrier around from years of worsening record losses, Mr. Pflieger ultimately did much more than that. Indeed, after only two years in Fiji, David Pflieger succeeded not only in restoring the company to record profitability after its record losses, he also establishing the airline as a noteworthy player in the international aviation sector.
In particular, under Mr. Pflieger’s leadership, Air Pacific received its first recognition from Condé Nast as one of the top five small airlines in the world. Mr. Pflieger accomplished this via a comprehensive turnaround and rebranding effort that saw Air Pacific dramatically improve operational reliability and customer service, reduce costs, increase revenue, renew its fleet with new aircraft, change its name to Fiji Airways, and embrace community involvement. In addition to a visual rebranding and a new fleet of Airbus A330-200 aircraft, the turnaround featured the addition of a new corporate social responsibility program.
When Dave Pflieger and his family returned to the United States at the conclusion of his role in Fiji, the positive outcome of the Air Pacific turnaround was clear and the airline has only continued to grow and thrive since that time. Mr. Pflieger remained on the Board after he left and he played a significant role in identifying a successor and facilitating the new executive’s smooth transition.
Named by U.S. News and World Report as among the top 10 islands in the world for vacation travel, Fiji consists of more than 300 tropical-climate islands in the South Pacific. Its sandy beaches, surrounded by deep turquoise waves, have attracted legions of romantic adventurers looking for seclusion. Underwater sports enthusiasts will also find much to love: Often called the world’s soft-coral capital, the waters around Fiji are home to intricate reefs that have achieved fame among divers and snorkelers.
Early in 2016, Cyclone Winston struck Fiji. While the storm was the most powerful to ever hit the islands, the country and its tourism industry quickly rebounded from the devastation it produced. Tourism is Fiji’s most rapidly growing industry. In fact, an estimated 45,000 individuals in Fiji hold jobs associated with tourism.
In 2015, more than 750,000 people visited Fiji. In a typical year, about 80 percent of all visitors to the islands are there as vacationers. Most of Fiji’s tourists come from Australia, New Zealand, and North America, followed by China, Europe, the United Kingdom, and South Korea. A recent focus on investments in Fiji’s tourism industry, as well as cooperation among a variety of stakeholders, continue to drive the numbers higher, officials say.
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