Australia and Fiji have agreed to a new air services agreement that increases the number of available seats for airlines of both countries.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack said on Friday there would a 20 per cent increase in available passengers capacity under the new deal.
“It supports our tourism, trade and cultural links between Australia and Fiji. More than 388,000 passengers travelled between Australia and Fiji in the year to June 2018,” McCormack said in a statement.
The air services agreement between Australia and Fiji was most recently expanded in May 2017, when passenger capacity was increased by 10 per cent and cargo capacity doubled.
Prior to Friday’s announcement, airlines of both countries were utilising just about all of the 6,500 seats of available capacity from Australia’s four major gateways of Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney to Fiji.
Indeed the register of available capacity on the Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities website showed there was just one seat left for Australian carriers, leaving Jetstar and Virgin Australia – the only two Australian carriers serving Fiji –unable to expand. Until now.
Meanwhile, Fiji Airways – the only airline from Fiji flying to Australia – has utilised 6,490 seats during the 2017/18 Northern Winter season. It flies from Nadi to Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, as well as from Suva to Sydney. Its Nadi-Adelaide flights do not count against the cap.
Fiji Airways has announced previously it is replacing all of its 164-seat Boeing 737-800s and 122-seat 737-700s with soon-to-arrive 185-seat 737 MAX 8s, representing a double-digit percentage increase in capacity.
Further, the airline is also adding a fifth Airbus A330 widebody to its fleet, which may also be deployed on Australian routes.
Philippines bilateral also increased
Meanwhile, the Australian government has also expanded its air services agreement with the Philippines, offering unlimited freighter services between the two countries and a 15 per cent increase in passenger capacity over the next six months.
McCommack said the expansion in available seats was to “accommodate expected growth in services in the coming years”.
“Updated arrangements with the Philippines will strengthen our relationship with what is an important and growing bilateral aviation market, expanding at an average of 9.2 per cent over the past five years,” McCormack said.
The bilateral with the Philippines was most recently expanded in May 2015.
Currently, Qantas is the only Australian carrier with nonstop flights to the Philippines. It flies nonstop between Sydney and Manila up to six times a week with Airbus A330 equipment.
Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines serves Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney from its Manila hub with a mix of A330s and A321neos, while Cebu Pacific started flying between Manila and Sydney in September 2014 and commenced nonstop flights to Melbourne in August 2018.
Sydney Airport chief executive Geoff Culbert said recently further liberalisation of Australia’s air services agreements would help unlock new passenger flows and stimulate air travel.
Culbert said there was ongoing dialogue between the airport and government on air services agreements.
“We have a good relationship with the government where we explain to them where we think we are starting to bang up against the limits of existing air services agreements or where we think new air services agreements could unlock new demand,” Culbert said at the airport’s calendar 2018 first half results presentation.