Air Pacific’s new Airbus A330, sporting the airline’s bold new Fiji Airways livery ahead of a total brand overhaul in June, is ready to take to the skies from April 2nd.
Australian Business Traveller caught up with the factory-fresh A330 as it made a pitstop at Hong Kong Airport, en route from Airbus HQ in Toulouse through to Fiji.
It’s the first of three A330s – the others are due in in May and November – which swap the tropical colours of Air Pacific for a fresh and distinctly Fijian livery, incorporating unique 'Masi' symbols and a brown logo block with stylised woodcut typeface.
Dave Pflieger, Air Pacific’s Managing Director and CEO (seen above in 'proud father' mode next to his new baby), gave Australian Business Traveller a brief guided tour of the A330 during its Hong Kong stopover.
These are the first new widebody aircraft ever purchased by the airline and beginning April 2nd will fly from Fiji to Australia, Auckland, Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
Inside are business class and economy seats designed by Zodiac Aerospace/Weber.
Each of the 24 seats in Tabua business class includes inbuilt AC power and USB outlets plus a 15.4 inch LCD screen running Panasonic’s eX2 content-on-demand system.
Pflieger says the fact that “quality carriers like Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia” have also chosen these same Weber 7811 business class seats – Virgin on its Coast to Coast A330s, and SQ on Airbus 330-300s and refitted Boeing 777-300s – weighed heavily in his choice of the seats.
Several different colours of trim were considered, but cream won out because it suited the design of the overall cabin to give the airline a fresh modern look.
As soon as we flag the predictable issue of keeping those seats pristine, Pflieger smiles and assures us that his team ran plenty of real-world, including a bunch of coloured felt-tipped market pens, to see how well the seats fared and ensure they could easily be cleaned.
Each seat reclines into an angled rather than fully-flat bed...
... with ample legroom in their upright mode.
Something all business travellers love about these Weber seats are the nooks and crannies for your inflight gear.
The side pocket's got room for a laptop, tablet and other pieces of travel tech.
You can also park a 13 inch ultrabook or tablet into the front-facing magazine pocket between the seats.
The tray table is laptop-friendly, and also pivots out of the way so you can more easily get in and out of your seat.
In Pacific Voyager economy class the A330 sports 249 of Weber’s slim-line model 5751, which has a 7.5 inch recline – comprising of a 6 inch back recline plus 1.5 inches of forward movement for the base.
Pflieger rates these seats as delivering a very balanced ‘economy equation’ of comfort and legroom, especially around the knees.
To increase usable floorspace the control unit for the inflight entertainment system is fixed to the underside of the seat rather than mounted on the floor.
The Weber economy seats also pack some thoughtful touches for the modern flyer such as stowage space for your travel tech, plus a 9 inch Panasonic touchscreen and in-seat AC power and USB sockets.
One design aspect which Pflieger eagerly points out is the handy sign on the fold-down tray table which tells travellers where the AC power socket is located (in many cases, passengers might not even know their economy seat has a powerpoint in the first place).
When and where can you fly the new Fiji Airways A330?
The first A330 will make its debut on flights between Nadi, Fiji and Auckland, New Zealand on April 2nd.
Brisbane will be the first city in Australia to see the A330 on April 21st, with the A330 flying there five times a week until July
Sydney A330 flights start on June 8th. Weekly flights by A330 and Boeing 737 aircraft will increase from 13 to 14 in September, offering customers a double daily every day of the week and up to 17 flights a week during the peak season.
The first Melbourne A330 flight will be in December. Combined A330 and B737 frequencies will increase from 5 to 6 in the December peak period.
Air Pacific also notes that its A330 "will begin flights to Hong Kong starting on April 4th, flying there every Thursday and Saturday, with the last Boeing 747 flight taking place at the end of March. A third A330 flight will be added in January 2014 following the arrival of the airline's third new A330."
The USA will see Fiji Airways A330 flight to Los Angeles on July 1st. The current schedule of four Boeing 747 flights a week to LAX will be replaced with a mix of A330 and Boeing 747 services offering extra frequencies until November, when the A330s will fully take over the route with daily service.
By the end of 2013, with all three A330s running, Air Pacific will have retired its Boeing 747s and repainted and upgraded all of its Boeing 737s in the new Fiji Airways livery.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.