AirSpace user Seat 1AWhat words of encouragement might Air Pacific outgoing CEO John Campbell have for his successor?
"There is a saying that when two elephants fight, the grass is crushed. We're the grass."
Campbell was speaking to the Wall Street Journal last year about new and strong competition from Australia's Jetstar and V Australia, the "two elephants" in his quote.
Enter Dave Pflieger.
When Pflieger joined Virgin America in 2004 as General Counsel and later VP for government affairs, he faced an uphill battle against competitors and the US government to prove Virgin America complied with all foreign ownership requirements. A recent ownership stoush led by Alaska Airlines was not settled until this January. You would think Pflieger is ready for a break, and what better place to take a break than in Fiji?
Last week Air Pacific announced Pflieger would be CEO effective 1 May, taking over from Campbell, who is retiring. Pflieger is getting everything but an easy job in tropical paradise.
When Campbell announced his retirement last May, he said it was to allow one CEO to completely oversee the introduction of its Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which were due for delivery starting in 2014. Fast forward to September when Qantas said it was looking to sell its 46% stake in the Fijian carrier, a decision that would mean major changes since Air Pacific and Qantas had commercial agreements.
Qantas has yet to decide about selling its stake. Additionally, Air Pacific is the "crushed grass" as a result of new and large competition from both a LCC (Jetstar) and full-service carrier (V Australia) meaning it will have to respond to two different market segments.
Last year the Air Pacific Group had a pre-tax loss of $14.3 million for the year to 31 March 2009, down sharply from the profit of $38.15 million a year before. The carrier said at the time it expects this year's loss to be "substantially greater".
Local reports indicate--unconfirmed--that the Fijian military members appointed to Air Pacific's board after the 2006 coup are a source of contention and may have contributed to the carrier's financial loss (until last decade Air Pacific was almost always profitable). Internationally Fiji's status is in limbo after its Court of Appeals ruled the coup illegal and suspended judges and the constitution.
Pflieger fought hard for Virgin America, but can he replicate his success in a far less democratic country? If Pflieger likes this work, he will be in paradise.