- Adelaide has been selected as the first destination in the region for Fiji Airways’ new 737 MAX 8;
- Fiji Airways plans to take delivery of its first 737 MAX 8 in Nov-2018 and use the type to replace 737NGs;
- Fiji Airways is using the 737 MAX 8 to improve its economy and business narrowbody product, as it will offer seatback IFE and Wi-Fi connectivity on the new MAX fleet;
- The 737 MAX 8 will also have a slightly larger economy class cabin, enabling Fiji Airways to add capacity to Adelaide and subsequently on its other narrowbody routes.
On 28-Jun-2018, Fiji Airways announced that Adelaide Airport “will be the first in the region to see our brand new 737 MAX 8 from December onwards”. An exact launch date will be determined later.
Fiji Airways launched services to Adelaide in Jun-2017 and has since served the Nadi-Adelaide route with one to three weekly 737-800s flights, depending on the time of year. The airline is slated to take delivery of its first 737 MAX 8 in Nov-2018 and a second aircraft in Dec-2018, replacing existing 737-800s.
The 737 MAX 8 will have slightly more capacity than the 737-800 and offer an improved product, including seatback inflight entertainment screens in both cabins. As Blue Swan has previously reported, Fiji Airways is configuring its 737 MAX 8 with 178 economy and eight business class seats compared to 156 economy and eight business class seats on its existing 737-800s.
Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen told CAPA TV on the sidelines of the 3-Jun-2018 IATA AGM in Sydney, the 737 MAX 8 economy class product matches its A330 widebody economy class product, providing full IFE and wifi connectivity. Fiji’s 737-800s have dropdown monitors and tablets are provided in business class.
“We think that we really have an unbelievable standard we are introducing with the MAX [with] all the modern conveniences one would expect on long haul yet alone short haul,” Mr Viljoen said.
He added in business class the seat on the 737 MAX 8 is “much improved” but will still not be lie-flat.
The selection of Nadi-Adelaide as an initial MAX destination is not surprising given that it is Fiji Airways’ second longest narrowbody route after Nadi-Honolulu. The fuel efficiency gains on the 737 MAX 8 compared to the 737-800 are more pronounced the longer the flight.
Passengers will also appreciate the improved product more on a route of six hours compared to a much shorter route within the South Pacific or to New Zealand. The flight time between Nadi and Adelaide is about six hours.
Fiji Airways plans to introduce the 737 MAX 8 on most – but not all – of its narrowbody routes, by mid 2019. It has so far committed to leasing five 737 MAX 8s. Mr Viljoen said three of Fiji Airways’ existing four 737-800s and its only 737-700 will be phased out over the next year as the 737 MAX 8s are delivered. He added the last 737-800 will be phased out when its lease expires in 2023.
Initially Fiji Airways was planning to transition to an all MAX narrowbody fleet in 2019. While keeping one 737-800 for another four years is not ideal, the 737-800 and 737 MAX 8 are very similar and therefore there will be no impact on maintenance or pilot costs. From a product perspective, Fiji Airways can operate the one remaining 737-800 on its shortest routes where the seatback IFE is not important.
In addition to Adelaide, Fiji Airways uses its 737 fleet on all flights to Christchurch, Wellington and Honolulu. It also uses the 737 on some regional flights within the South Pacific (some South Pacific destinations are served with a mix of 737s and ATR 72 turboprops) and on some flights to Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney (which are served with a mix of 737s and A330s).
For Adelaide Airport, Fiji Airways will be the first 737 MAX operator. Currently the only two airports in Australia with 737 MAX services are Cairns and Darwin, both of which are served with SilkAir 737 MAX 8s from Singapore. Fiji Airways will likely become the first 737MAX operator at Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney in 2019.
Our full interview with Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen, can be found below: