AUSTRALIAN AIRLINE TO EXPAND FIJI ROUTE

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 28) - Virgin Blue Airlines plans to add more flights to develop its Fiji market, says the airlines head of commercial international, Mr. Karam Chand.

The Australia-based airline's Pacific carrier Pacific Blue currently offers 10 direct flights a week from Australia to Fiji.

"Currently we have 10 flights but we need to finalize our plan to add capacity. As the market keeps growing we keep on adding capacity," said Chand. He said currently, the airline had about 65 percent capacity on its flights to Fiji but there was room for improvement.

"Most airlines are happy when they have 70 or 75 percent full. If you have any more than that that means in the peak period you are 100 percent full," he said.

"Our perspective is that there is some opportunities for us to grow the current flights and carry more passengers."

Pacific Blue entered the Fiji market in September 2004. Chand said since then, the number of people traveling between Fiji and Australia had grown by 142,000 passengers.

He said this was an increase of 36 percent.

He said the airline was working hard to help Fiji's tourism industry recover, and had launched tourism campaigns.

But Chand said as a result of the political unrest, Fiji-bound travelers on the airline had dropped by 40 percent.

Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd announced a net profit after tax of AU$124.3 million ($F163.7 million), [US$98 million] for the half-year ended December 31, 2006.

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