FBL-Air NZ sign charter flight contract for Japanese students to Fiji

Free Bird Institute Ltd. Picture: FT FILE

Free Bird Institute Ltd (FBL) has signed a contract with Air New Zealand to charter an Airbus A320 to Fiji to allow its students from Japan to transit through Auckland.

In September this year, the institute – listed on the South Pacific Stock Exchange (SPX) – had announced the conditional approval received from the COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce (CRMT) to allow its international students to enter Fiji under the Specific Request under Significant Economic Value category of the Fijian COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework.

FBL chief financial officer Waisale Iowane said the institute would charter an Airbus A320 from Auckland to Nadi on December 27, 2020.

He said this flight had been arranged to coincide with the Air New Zealand commercial flight arriving from Narita on the same day.

“This will allow our students to transit through Auckland and onto this charter flight through to Fiji. We are currently finalising the finer details of this charter, which will be made available once all information has been received and confirmed,” Mr Iowane said in a statement issued via the Exchange.

FBL chief operating officer Mereseini Baleilevuka said this was a great opportunity for the institute and the country.

“We need to start opening our borders and welcoming back visitors and international students in a COVID-safe manner and we are proud to pave the way for Fiji in this regard,” Ms Baleilevuka said in the same statement.

“We intend to bring in at least 100 students on this flight for both our language and high school departments.”

According to the statement signed by FBL executive chairman Hiroshi Taniguchi, all students arriving in Fiji on this flight would go into mandatory isolation for 14 days at a government-approved quarantine facility at their own cost.

He said those students would also undergo two mandatory COVID-19 tests while in quarantine, in addition to the mandatory test they would need to undertake 72 hours prior to departure from Japan where the students must present a negative test result.

“All these measures are necessary to ensure the safety of all our students, front line workers and the community at large,” Mr Taniguchi said.

“FBL is pleased to note that it continues to generate interest from the market in Japan who continue to choose Fiji as a destination to study abroad and it hopes to capitalise progressively on this demand especially during this pandemic.

“We are also grateful to the Fiji Government and its relevant departments who have supported us with this initiative.”

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