David Pflieger has over three decades of experience in the aviation industry, but he is so much more than a former pilot. He is also a huge advocate of company and employee involvement in local communities, and strives to make organizations decent corporate citizens. He creates environments that shine a light on customer satisfaction and employee recognition. In addition to his people-centric focus, he views environmental friendliness and sustainability as the key pillars of running a good business. He’s held a variety of positions throughout his long and impressive career, and he demonstrates with each role that he is a passionate advocate of environmental conservation, children’s education and wellbeing, and corporate social responsibility.
After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Mr. Pflieger started his career as a cross-commissioned officer and B-52 pilot in the US Air Force, where he also earned multiple commendations. He completed both a Juris Doctor degree and an MBA from Emory University, while simultaneously serving in the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve as a C-130 pilot. He then went on to work for the Atlanta-based law firm King & Spalding, which is one of the country’s top firms
Employee Hiring Initiatives
Health and Wellness Projects
Corporate Culture and Community Growth
His unique blend of legal and aviation knowledge enabled him to serve as an operations attorney at Delta Air Lines, where he also piloted their B737 aircraft. Mr. Pflieger was eventually promoted to director of flight safety where he helped Delta achieve one of its safest years of operations ever.
As the eventual vice president of operations, Dave Pflieger helped launch Song, Delta’s low cost carrier, and in 2004 he became a founding officer and senior executive at Virgin America. While at Virgin, he held several positions. He was employed first as an A320 pilot, then as general counsel, then as senior vice president. One of his most noteworthy accomplishments was growing the airline to a company of over 3,000 employees and over 60 jet aircraft. Since the environment is a cause he cares deeply about, Dave also wanted to decrease the company’s carbon footprint and increase the company’s recycling programs. He created the airline’s socially responsible “green” initiatives by organizing teams to pick up local beaches and by encouraging employees to ride bikes and carpool to work. Dave also got the Virgin HQ building LEED Silver certified, and established company-wide recycling, ensuring the use of only used recycled products in its kitchens and copy centers.
Not satisfied with these efforts, he also joined forces with the world-renowned CERES group, and Virgin America became the first airline in the United States to publish its greenhouse gas emissions on the internationally recognized Climate Registry. He also made Virgin the first airline in the world to offer passengers the ability to reduce their own carbon footprint by using in-flight carbon offsets through a joint venture with the Carbonfund.org foundation. This program offers a way for people to feel better about their own CO2 use when flying by offering them a chance to invest in a current carbon reduction program. Dave also helped retire the company’s gas-guzzling 747s and 767s, and replaced them with the more fuel-efficient Airbus A330 aircraft. This change ended up cutting airline CO2 emissions by nearly half.
After he left Virgin, Dave moved to Fiji and instantly fell in love. 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. He also insisted that Fiji Airways make a commitment to improve the lives and well-being of not only their staff, but also all Fijians living in the country. He often told his staff that companies with massive resources should use them to improve society and set an example for other corporate citizens, since large corporations have the power to impact the world. In April of 2012, after several days of severe flooding in Western Fiji, Dave Pflieger and some other executives brought crisis management teams to their employees’ unpowered, flooded homes to bring flashlights, water, and food. Some employees were moved to tears because they couldn’t believe their CEO had shown up in the middle of the night to help them.
He also created a partnership with Zens Medical Centre, naming it the Fiji Airways Wellness Clinic, where he helped to educate both airline employees and the local community about the importance of exercise and how to avoid mass-produced foods containing high levels of sodium or fat. To further promote their efforts, Fiji Airways also donated over $100,000 to the clinic to pay for preventative screenings for members of the public and airline employees. The ultimate goal in creating the wellness clinic was to educate and protect people from the onset of diseases that were causing needless deaths, such as hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes. These are all diseases that can be easily prevented with a healthy diet and exercise. As an unexpected but welcome cost benefit, employees who passed these screenings ended up saving the airline money by reducing overall healthcare premiums.
Fiji Airways also partnered with the Mamanuca Environment Society (MES), an organization tasked with protecting the land and sea of the Fijian Mamanuca Islands, who work tirelessly to keep Fiji’s reefs and sea life healthy and sustainable. Together, they launched a new green initiative to help protect the marine and terrestrial environments of Fiji. The new partnership led to a massive clean up of local and island beaches and coral reefs. They also helped preserve the environment and promote environmental awareness by supporting school and community programs, planting coral, and assisting sea turtles.
The Foundation for Rural Integrated Enterprises and Development (FRIEND) is the primary organization that fights poverty in Fiji, and they have helped over 10,000 citizens, mostly women and children. They strive to envision a country where the poor citizens can lead lives filled with respect and dignity. Their primary goals include giving the poor access to resources, information, and opportunities, and they monitor their progress over time. All of these causes are also close to Dave Pflieger’s heart, and his team agreed that the future of Fiji’s “next generation” was too important to ignore. They raised money through their “Cash for Kids” and Wings of Hope programs and partnered with FRIEND to help impoverished children affected by flooding to obtain scholarships for primary school tuition and books. Dave’s team made an initial $30,000 donation, followed by another $100,000, and these scholarships have helped many young people receive a much needed education.
In addition to being the CEO of Air Pacific/Fiji Airways, Dave was appointed by Fiji’s Prime Minister to become the Chairman of Fiji’s National Tourism Office. In this role, Dave helped grow annual tourism by 25%, and dramatically increased global awareness of the Fijian culture by rebranding both the airline and the nation as an exotic South Pacific paradise. Fiji Airways has since been voted one of the Top 10 “Best Small Airlines” in the World by Conde Nast Traveler Magazine.
Dave Pflieger also served as the President and CEO of Silver Airways, Florida’s largest intrastate carrier, where he grew the airline to an award-winning, independent stand-alone regional carrier. As President, CEO, and board member at Hawaii Island Air (“Island Air”), the state’s second largest airline, Dave drastically improved the carrier’s commercial and financial operations, as well as their safety performance. He also transformed the airline into a top-notch regional carrier which was sold to PacifiCap, Hawaii’s largest venture capital firm. Serving as an advisor to the World Bank Group in Washington, DC, Dave also assisted a government in Africa with the turnaround and privatization of a national carrier.
Dave Pflieger is currently the CEO of Ravn Alaska, Alaska’s largest airline. They have over 1,000 employees and 74 aircraft in their fleet, and schedule more than 3,000 weekly flights to hundreds of destinations. Dave continues to be actively involved in the industry. He was recently invited by Goldman Sachs to meet with their institutional investors and discuss current trends in the airline industry. He has also spent the last two years briefing other Wall Street investment bankers and research firms on different unique aspects of the airline industry.
When he isn’t busy working, Dave donates his free time as a coach for youth sports programs.