Not to be confused with flag carrier Fiji Airways, Air Fiji was a domestic airline that operated inter-island flights between the country’s islands. When it ceased operations in 2009, the small regional carrier employed a small handful of aircraft, including a Convair 580, five Harbin Y-12s, and three Embraer EMB-110s.
The early days
At its founding in July 1967, the regional airline actually had a different name: Air Pacific. It operated as such for about four years until taking the name Fiji Air Services in 1971. Its original name, Air Pacific, went to the airline Fiji Airways (which has since dropped the Air Pacific brand and returned to its original name).
As for the airline Fiji Air Services, sources note that it went through a few additional name changes as well- shifting to Fiji Air and then to its final operating name: Air Fiji.
During the airline’s early years (the 1970s and 80s), the airline operated several types of small propeller-driven aircraft. These included:
- The UK-built Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander
- The DHC-6 Twin Otter (made by de Havilland Canada at the time)
- And the four-engined DH.114 Heron.
The 90s and onward
From 1992 the Air Fiji fleet was updated and operated the Chinese-built Harbin Y-12 and the Embraer EMB 110, made in Brazil. The carrier would also operate a single Convair 580.
The airline experienced two notable incidents during its history. One took place in July 1999 when an EMB 110, flying from Nausori for Nadi, crashed on the slope of a ridge. The aircraft’s right wing had hit a tree on a ridgeline at 1,300 feet after descending below a safe altitude. The Aviation Safety Network notes that that the captain had insufficient rest prior to the flight (which departed at 05:25) and that an above-therapeutic level of antihistamine was consumed before the flight. All 15 passengers and two crew were killed in this incident.
In October 2008, one of the airline’s Harbin Y-12s experienced a brake failure while taxiing after landing. The Fiji Sun reports that the aircraft struck a building and the offices of fellow regional airline Pacific Sun.
The end of Air Fiji
On May 1st, 2009, Air Fiji ceased its operations. At the time, the airline had been majority-owned (55%) by a firm called Aviation Investments. Private investors comprised the other 34% of ownership, while the government of Fiji had an 11% share.
As for its fleet, we know that some of the carrier’s EMB 110 Bandeirantes went to inter-island carrier Northern Air. On its website, the airline states:
“The lapse of Air Fiji services left a huge vacuum in Fiji’s aviation industry and Northern Air entered the market to fill the void in order for tourist and locals to travel freely and safely.”
Have you ever flown Air Fiji – or any airline within Fiji for that matter? Share your experience with us by leaving a comment.