Dave Pflieger is an internationally experienced startup and turnaround executive focusing on the airline, aviation and travel industry. In each of the diverse projects Dave has led over the years, he emphasizes the importance of cross-cultural competence, as well as a genuine desire to make companies reflect the communities that inspire and enable them.
Dave’s work on Air Pacific (later renamed Fiji Airways) exemplifies his approach to business, which is globally informed but always locally inspired. His background in the United States market made him a valuable figure in terms of creating connections and leveraging the 2011 codeshare agreement with American Airlines. Additionally, one of the reasons he was recruited as Managing Director & CEO of Air Pacific was his recognition of cultural sensitivities. Air Pacific was based in Fiji, a South Pacific Island with a diverse population, multiple religions, and an active indigenous culture. How could he integrate everything that made Fiji unique within a comprehensive business development framework?
Over the next three years, Dave worked to find the answer to this question — and ultimately rebranded the airline into the highly successful Fiji Airways which, even today, is still witnessing record results due the work by Dave and his team work saving the airline and transforming it into a safe, efficient, and highly popular carrier of choice in the South Pacific.
Although the name change is perhaps the most obvious example of designation alignment, Dave also worked in many other capacities to demonstrate a clearer link between the airline and the nation of Fiji. The aircraft’s new brand mark and logo originates from the traditional Fijian ancient art form, Masi, and it was created by local artist Makereta Matemosi. It incorporates numerous Fijian art motifs, including the Teteva, which represents the positive interconnection of Fijian people and places.
This aircraft artwork, as well as the Makare motif (which borders the Teteva) and the Rova motif on the engine, is a modern outlet for Fiji’s traditional culture. The ceremonial welcoming of the first plane, organized by Dave, proved its eye-catching effect. Visibly displaying “Fiji” on its belly, the aircraft made its first flight through the country, capturing the attentions of every capital city and of the country in general. In addition to capturing the essence of community among the locals, it serves as a global “flying billboard” as it stands out in some of the world’s busiest international airports.
In this way, among others, Dave worked to highlight Fiji’s position on a global scale. Prior to his role as MD/CEO, Air Pacific was fairly well known locally, but it was not recognized in major markets or overseas — only 22.9% of the New Zealand market could identify “Air Pacific” as Fiji’s airline. Some markets, including the U.S., had even lower brand awareness. It was necessary to take on Air Pacific in a way that could represent Fiji, but resonate globally — and Dave Pflieger was uniquely suited to meet this challenge.
Dave worked hard to integrate his values of corporate social responsibility to meet the specific geographic, cultural, and social needs of Fiji. He and the Air Pacific team were highly active through its charity arm, Wings of Hope; they collaborated with such organizations as FRIEND (Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development) for education relief to children affected by the floods in Fiji. In addition to simply donating and fundraising, the Air Pacific team was active in organizing community events. For example, they organized a charity raffle event praised by FRIEND Founder Ms Sashi Kiran as “…not just another corporate donation, their effort had the full commitment of management and all their staff.”
In August 2012, Fiji Airways announced its partnership with the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES), an initiative which was meant to align their corporate social responsibility with the uniquely beautiful marine and terrestrial environment of the Mamanuca Islands in Fiji.