2 Apr 2020

Fiji Airways plans to fly to US criticised

6:47 am on 2 April 2020

Opposition MP Viliame Gavoka has criticised Fiji's Airways' plans to resume operations to the United States amid the Covid-19 threat.

On Tuesday the airline announced it will consider recovery flights between Nadi and Los Angeles if there's a demand.

Mr Gavoka said Fiji's first coronavirus patient tested positive after returning from abroad and spending time in the US.

The new Airbus A350 aircraft.

The new Airbus A350 aircraft. Photo: Fiji Government

He is calling on the government to cancel the airline's plans.

"At a time like this where you have restrictions across Fiji and across the globe, I am speechless when I see that our national airline will be flying into America at this time."

"The US today is the epicentre of the virus having exceeded China and Europe."

Sodelpa's Viliame Gavoka is the shadow minister for tourism and civil aviation.

There are five confirmed cases of the virus in Fiji with the latest patient confirmed on March 25.

Mr Gavoka said precautionary measures were working and he urged the government to ensure it remained that way.

He said US President Donald Trump had extended social distancing to the end which "indicated the threat from the virus is still severe."

"We must not be reckless by jeopardizing our effort in undertaking a recovery flight to Los Angeles," said Mr Gavoka.

Union criticises leave without pay move

Meanwhile the Fiji Trades Union Congress has also criticised Fiji Airways over its decision to send staff home on leave without pay due to the Covid-19 threat.

Congress national secretary Felix Anthony said the government's recent stimulus Budget promised to ensure workers, such as those at Fiji Airways, were taken care of.

Mr Anthony said the airline had posted "impressive profits" over the years and should be in a position to pay its workers.

Felix Anthony

Felix Anthony Photo: RNZ

He said the airline's move also sent a "wrong signal" to other employers to do the same.

Mr Anthony urged the government to take responsibility for the national carrier and ensure all airline workers could have a decent living.

But Fiji Airways refuted Mr Anthony's claims.

In a statement, the airline said it had done everything to minimise the effects of the coronavirus on its 1500 employees.

The airline confirmed staff were put on four weeks' leave without pay but this would be spread over a three-month period from April to June.

Staff had been assured no one would lose their job, the airline said.