Amid much fanfare at Nadi Airport, where there is plenty of music and even a replica Golden Gate Bridge, I board my first flight with Fiji’s flag carrier since it rebranded from Air Pacific three years ago. As it’s also my first business class trip with the carrier, needless to say I’m pretty excited.
Date: 15 June 2016
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Formation: 2-2-2 (24 total)
Check-in: Fiji Airways offers an online check-in service, open from 24 hours to four hours prior to departure. However, I choose the more personal option of checking in at the airport, which turns out to be quick, easy, and Fijian (read very) friendly.
Luggage allowance: Business flyers are given a very generous allowance of two checked bags, each up to 40kgs and 158cms in linear length. And if that’s not enough, I’m also allowed two carry-on bags and a personal item. Lounge: Although the Tabua Club Lounge isn’t easy to find, and a little tight on space, it’s a comfortable spot to see out an hour or two for your flight, with a small but nice selection of food and beverages. And as Nadi Airport is undergoing a full renovation, I’ve been told by a Fiji Airways executive to expect a “bigger and better” lounge soon.
Seat: The business class seat is immediately pleasing on the eye, in a slick off-white colour scheme. In the upright position, it’s as comfortable as it looks too, with a soft leather trim, long armrests and just enough storage space on either side to slide a big laptop into, and a little more space in two ‘drawers’ under the screen. Each seat has a pitch of 60 inches and width of 21 inches, and although not fully flat, the angle flat seat is easily cosy enough to allow me to sleep for more than half the journey. I’m also given a pair of nice PJs, an amenity kit (which includes the best-looking eye mask I’ve ever had), a big fluffy pillow and a slim, warm doona.
Onboard catering: Business class dining consultant (and celebrity chef) Lance Seeto has done a fantastic job with his team in just his second year working with the airline. On the day of the flight, Seeto told Traveltalk that Fiji’s food scene had matured from a very South Pacific-oriented offering to a more global gastronomy, thanks largely to the country’s ever-widening visitor demographic. The same could be said of the country’s carrier. Mixing traditional Fijian flavours and ingredients with overseas influences, Seeto has crafted a menu that is not only high in taste, but also surprising.
Alongside beef spare ribs and a tasty-looking chicken curry, a vegetable lasagna goes way beyond my expectations (and imagination), combining mildly-spicy coconut-infused taro leaves (a Fijian staple) with perfectly melted cheese and a tomato basil sauce. Part of a well-considered wine list, an Aussie cab merlot is the ideal accompaniment to the hearty meal. Dessert is a delicious duo of vanilla ice cream wrapped in hardened chocolate and a light chocolate-chip berry brownie, which looks so good my slumbering neighbour makes a special order.
Breakfast orders are also taken early in the flight so as to let weary passengers sleep for as along as possible. And it’s definitely worth waking up for. Mine starts with one of the best tapioca puddings I’ve tasted, served with coconut milk, and is followed by a mashed Marquis potato and unsweetened pineapple salsa. The simple omelette served to my row mate looks fantastic too and is gobbled down in a flash.
Entertainment: FJ offers a small, but fine selection of new and older films, television, and games, presented on a big 15.4-inch display. It isn’t a touch screen, but the images are super clear and the selection is highly responsive from the handset. I’m also super impressed by the music catalogue, which ranges from oldies and mainstream newbies to cool alternatives (including bands this musical flyer is only now discovering). To top it off, the noise cancelling headphones are so good I can barely hear the crew over the blissful sounds.
Service: Fiji Airways’ cabin crew reflect the friendliness of the Fijian people. Relaxed, yet well-trained, they are helpful without hovering and don’t even mind posing for a photo or two. Chatting to the ever-smiling Ilaitia, who can’t wait to see San Fran for the first time, I’m reminded of why everybody loves Fijians. And I love the uniforms too. The crew even make a special announcement for an economy passenger, whose birthday it is, and ask members of the cabin crew to sing her happy birthday.
On-time performance: The first FJ flight to SFO arrives punctually (almost to the minute) and to a big round of applause. Even a delayed disembarkation, caused by a slow jetbridge, can’t dampen the happy mood.
Favourite thing: The food, which thanks to Mr Seeto and his team, who have overseen the catering for the past two years, is top-notch.
Flight tip: Leave your headphones on when sleeping. This way, you’ll rest so peacefully, you’ll still think you’re in Fiji.
The writer was a guest of Fiji Airways.
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