Andre Viljoen looks after Fiji Airways just like his own health and family. The chief executive officer and managing director is 67, but is in good nick. He regularly exercises, eats well and works hard. He is passionate in the same way as he approaches his work.
But the man who has been credited with the remarkable achievement of the airline for almost three years is humble and modest about it.
He attributes the airline’s success so far to his management team and 1384 employees, the support of Government, board of directors, loyal customers and Fijians in general.
Mr Viljoen’s challenge when he first arrived after a successful stint with Air Mauritius was how to make the transformation that Fiji Airways was going through sustainable. It had just made a small profit after large losses in the past.
“I came in with a very clear understanding to ensure that the good work done in the past could be improved and to make the turnaround sustainable,” he said.
With the benefit of experience of at least 40 years in the industry, he did not come in and make changes right away. He had to understand the situation first.
Mr Viljoen said all airlines had business models. Fiji Airways was not in Europe but in the Pacific, 10 hours from the United States, 10 hours from Asia and four hours from Australia. The cost was a major challenge because on scale we are a second tier 18 aircraft airline.
“Air New Zealand has more than 160 aircraft, Qantas 200.”