Fiji’s Labour Party earlier this week said, the national airline is unlikely to survive without a comprehensive review and restructuring of its operations as New Zealand and Australia are not likely to open their borders anytime soon. The party therefore called the airline to present a viable rescue plan.
Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, said Fijians were entitled to know how Fiji Airways proposed to restructure itself without becoming a liability on the taxpayer.
“It must have a comprehensive review and restructuring of its finances, workforce, fleet-size, flight schedules and destinations once it starts flying again because the market will be much smaller.
“They may not need all the planes that they’ve got now. They’ll have to right-size the workforce and bring about savings in all the areas of their operations.”
Chaudhry said a plan was a notable omission from the national Budget address last month.
He said the Parliament-approved government guarantee last week of a “massive post-Covid-19 bail-out loan of $US213 million to the airline” would not be adequate to keep Fiji Airways afloat.
The former prime minister said this was mainly due to borders with Fiji’s major tourism markets likely to remain closed for some time.
This week New Zealand announced its first Covid-19 cases outside of quarantine while Australians have been told to cancel their Christmas travel plans as the country recorded its worst single day rise in deaths.
Mr Chaudhry said going forward, the airline should take a critical look at its fleet size and retire aircraft that were uneconomical to run or in excess of requirement.
He said staff costs needed to be rationalised by right-sizing the workforce and employing expatriates only where locals with requisite qualifications were unavailable.
In May, nearly 800 Fiji Airways staff including cabin crew and pilots were made redundant.
The airline had said the severe effects of the pandemic had resulted in the company taking the “drastic step”.
All 79 expatriate pilots had their contracts terminated including eight expatriate executives, the airline said in a statement.
Fiji Airways had six local executives who have retained their jobs and now constitute the majority of the leadership team.
The letter said people who had been released could reapply for roles when the situation allowed.