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Call to slash airfares

Litia Vulaidausiga
Wednesday, July 02, 2014

THE Consumer Council of Fiji has issued a public plea for Fiji Airways to reduce the airfares of its domestic flights.

Council CEO Premila Kumar said yesterday while it applauded the airline's inflight menu upgrade, not a day went by when consumers did not raise concerns about the expensive fares paid by those in the North.

"Currently, consumers are subjected to paying extraordinarily high airfares when taking domestic flights. For instance, consumers end up paying as much as $286.55 for only one way fare from Nausori to Labasa. Return fare can be as high as $573," Ms Kumar said.

She said it was simply too expensive, considering some international fares were cheaper.

"Another concern is that consumers need more transparency on the airline's 'cheap fare' deal/promotions available for the domestic flights as presently, when consumers call the airline office to make bookings, they are often advised that 'all cheap fare seats are sold out' yet advertisements keep appearing in the papers."

Fiji Airways managing director and chief executive Stefan Pichler said he would not respond to a press release with a press release.

He said Fiji Airways did not make public discussions but would deal with proposals or complaints accordingly.

"I know domestic airfares are perceived as being expensive, and in some cases, if you compare them to international fares they really seem expensive," he said.

"But the big problem is that in domestics, we lose money. So in the last year, our operating profit margin on the domestic network was minus two per cent, despite the fact that in most cases, we have not raised the fares, it hasn't been changed for the last two years but still we lost money."

He said they were restricted by infrastructure, noting that while they would prefer to fly to Savusavu with a bigger aircraft as it would be much more economical, they couldn't because the runway was not long enough.

"There are problems in other areas as well. So the customers, the consumers as well are stuck with what we have as infrastructure."

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