Fiji Airways has become the first operator in Oceania to take delivery of the Boeing 737 MAX.
The airline received 737 MAX 8 DQ-FAB at Boeing’s Renton facility in Washington State on Friday, November 30.
The two-leg delivery flight began with a six-and-a-half hour trip from Boeing Field to Honolulu. After a two-night stop in Hawaii, the final leg departed at about 0600 on Sunday morning, arriving at Nadi at about 1250 local time on Monday, according to flight tracking website Flightaware.
First leg underway with a stop in Honolulu before the final stretch home. We can't wait to welcome this FABulous aircraft! Follow her journey home with flight radar 24 flight FJ2001. #BulaMax @flightradar24 #islandofKadavu #DQFAB pic.twitter.com/7qQxyx3RSz
— Fiji Airways (@FijiAirways) December 1, 2018
— Sikeli Vakalala (@VakalalaSikeli) December 3, 2018
Fiji Airways has ordered five Boeing 737 MAX 8s, with all aircraft expected to be delivered by the middle of 2019.
The aircraft are slated to replace its existing narrowbody fleet of four 737-800s and one 737-700 that are used on short- and medium-haul routes to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
“We are thrilled to take delivery of our very first 737 MAX 8, named Island of Kadavu,” Fiji Airways chief executive Andre Viljoen said in a statement.
“The introduction of the 737 MAX is the beginning of a new chapter for Fiji Airways and we look forward to taking advantage of the airplane’s superior performance and economics.
“These new airplanes will enable us to offer a world-class customer experience through the new Boeing Sky Interior cabins with in-seat entertainment for all guests.”
Fiji Airways was scheduled to be the second airline to fly the 737 MAX to Australia when it deploys the next generation aircraft on the Nadi-Adelaide route later in December.
Currently, it uses the 737-800 on the twice-weekly service between the two cities, having started the route in June 2017.
Singapore Airlines’ regional wing Silkair was the first airline to operate the 737 MAX to Australia when flying to Cairns and Darwin in January 2018 with the type.
There are two other Boeing 737 MAX customers in Oceania. Virgin Australia has 40 of the type on order – a combination of 737 MAX 8s and the larger 737 MAX 10 – with first delivery due at the end of calendar 2019, while Air Niugini was expected to take the first of four MAX aircraft from 2020.
Meanwhile, Qantas is expected to run a competition between the 737 MAX and A320neo at some future point for the replacement of its existing 737-800 fleet.
The MAX family features a new flightdeck, fly-by-wire spoilers and new technology winglets compared with the 737 NG on which it is based. It is powered by two CFM International LEAP 1B 176cm fan diameter engines, compared with the 155cm fan diameter CFM56 on the NG.
To accommodate the larger engine, the MAX incorporates a taller nose wheel landing gear leg, while the engine nacelles’ trailing edges feature noise-reducing chevron shaping, as also seen on the 787.
“We are delighted to welcome Fiji Airways to the MAX family of operators and we are thrilled they will be the first 737 MAX operator in the Pacific Islands,” Boeing senior vice president of commercial sales and marketing Ihssane Mounir said in a statement.
“We are honoured by their continued partnership and confidence in Boeing products. The market-leading efficiency of the MAX will pay immediate dividends for Fiji Airways and will help them improve their operation and route network.”
It was announced in June that Fiji Airways would be the first airline to join the oneworld marketing alliance under a new “oneworld connect” category.
The new category allowed airlines that wished to join the alliance but did not have either the resources, or need, to offer full reciprocity of frequent flyer benefits and integration with the rest of the full oneworld membership the opportunity to do so.
Viljoen said at the time the order was announced in November 2016 the five 737 MAXes would be delivered via a 12-year sale-and-leaseback financing arrangement as part of a package deal with GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), Boeing and engine manufacturer CFM.
Further, the airline said Boeing Global Services’ would support its 737 MAX operations with its airplane health management real-time monitoring and software distribution tools program.
There have been 4,783 total orders for the 737 MAX family of aircraft, according to the Boeing website. The manufacturer has delivered 241 of the type.
The June 2018 magazine edition of Australian Aviation had a feature story on Fiji Airways written by Tom Ballantyne. That story can be read here.
VIDEO: A look at Fiji Airways’ Boeing 737 MAX 8 from the airline’s YouTube channel.