Dave Pflieger is a highly energetic, forward-thinking, start-up and turnaround executive who has had the opportunity to create, lead, and play key roles in six different airlines which have had a significant impact on today’s airline industry. He currently serves as an advisor to the World Bank Group in Washington, DC assisting them and a government in Africa with the turnaround and privatization of a national carrier there. Prior to this work, Dave was an officer, director, attorney, and pilot with a proven and successful track record building, improving, and successfully growing numerous award-winning companies including Delta’s low cost carrier, Song, a new start-up called Virgin America, and Air Pacific/Fiji Airways.
From 2014 to 2016 Dave was President, CEO, and Board member at Hawaii Island Air (“Island Air”), the state’s second largest airline where he was a direct report to multi-billionaire owner Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. Within fourteen months of his appointment by Ellison to replace a former CEO from Hawaiian Airlines and run this Honolulu based carrier, Dave had not only successfully fixed and dramatically improved the carrier’s commercial, financial, operations, and safety performance, he had also transformed the airline into a top-notch regional carrier which was lauded by United Airlines and courted by two U.S. national buyers before it was successfully sold to PacifiCap, Hawaii’s largest venture capital firm.
Prior to Island Air, Dave Pflieger guided Silver Airways, Florida’s largest intrastate carrier, as its President and CEO. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Dave led Silver Airways to become an award-winning, independent stand-alone regional carrier that was a strong partner to Delta Airlines, United Airlines, and JetBlue Airways. Dave was selected by Victory Park Capital, a Chicago based private equity fund, to turn Silver into a strong independent business following his highly successful tenure at Air Pacific/Fiji Airways.
The remarkable turnaround and rebrand of Air Pacific was an amazing three-year effort that succeeded against all odds if you believe a Wall Street Journal article written about the airline just before Dave Pflieger’s arrival. In that article, the WSJ expressed serious doubts about the airline’s survival due to: high oil prices, fierce new competition from two much larger and better financed Australian low-cost carriers, Jetstar and Virgin Blue, and significant political turmoil that had created a sharp downturn in Fiji tourism and travel. Despite it all, Dave Pflieger accepted the challenge to not just fix, but grow Air Pacific and its regional subsidiary Pacific Sun in Fiji and the South Pacific. Notwithstanding even greater challenges than anticipated by the WSJ and heavy opposition from various parties inside and outside of Fiji, Dave and his new management team not only succeeded in reversing record losses and returning the airline to record profits, they also set it up for even greater future success–success that reached even higher levels in 2014, 2015, and 2016 — a true testament to a highly successful transformation.
In addition to restoring Fiji’s national airline to profitability in just two years, Dave also dramatically improved the airline’s safety and operational performance, passing an International Air Transportation Association (IATA) safety with flying colors and earning the airline its first-ever two year AOC from Fiji Civil Aviation Authority.
Apart from his role as CEO of Air Pacific/Fiji Airways, Dave was also appointed by Fiji’s Prime Minister to become the Chairman of Fiji’s National Tourism Office. In that role, Dave led Tourism Fiji to grow its annual tourism arrivals by 25%, and as both airline CEO and tourism Chairman, he dramatically increased international awareness of Fiji and Fijian culture by rebranding both the airline and national tourism efforts to align the national carrier with its role as a flying ambassador and raise Fiji’s international reputation as an exotic South Pacific paradise. It was these and many other achievements under Dave’s leadership that led Fiji to achieve remarkable tourism recognition from around the world, and it also led Fiji Airways to gain first-ever recognition — for two years in a row — as one of the Top 10 “Best Small Airlines” in the World by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.
Before joining Air Pacific, Dave Pflieger worked for Virgin America as its General Counsel, Senior Vice President and A320 pilot. Of note was Dave’s work managing the creation and launch of the entire airline from a team of just fourteen founders to a company of over 3,000 employees and over 60 jet aircraft. Dave also designed and built the airline’s corporate social responsibility and “green” programs that won the airline national recognition for its successful efforts partnering with the world-renowned CERES group to become an industry leader in environmental initiatives. Dave Pflieger also led Virgin America to become the first airline in the United States to publish its greenhouse gas emissions on the internationally recognized Climate Registry, and he made Virgin the first airline in the world to offer passengers the ability to purchase carbon offsets during flight through its partnership with The Carbonfund.org Foundation.
Dave is clearly a unique leader in the aviation sector as he has consistently been able to guide companies to improve safety and operations while cutting costs, turning a profit, and building numerous first-ever employee rewards programs, such as company-wide profit-sharing and quarterly performance incentive bonuses, which were instrumental in the company’s award-winning success.