Fiji Airways flies both the Boeing 737 and Airbus A330 to Australian shores, but there's a significant difference between the two for passengers at the pointy end.
You'll find only reclining chairs on the former, while the latter comes with international-grade lie-flat beds, plenty of legroom and significantly more privacy for generally the same price as you'd pay to fly on the smaller bird.
Having already reviewed Fiji Air's Boeing 737 business class, we took the A330 for a spin on the journey home to see how the experience compares for business travellers.
With dedicated priority check-in counters for premium passengers and no line to contend with at security and passport control, it takes just minutes to go from kerb to lounge – impressive for an international airport.
Business class passengers bound for Australia are given 30kg of free checked baggage, while members of the airline's Tabua Club program can check an extra 7kg.
If you've been enjoying a Fiji stopover when flying with the airline to or from Los Angeles, the checked baggage allowance becomes 2x30kg for all flights in the itinerary.
You can also bring two 7kg bags into the cabin, plus a 'personal item' such as a laptop or purse.
The Fiji Airways Tabua Lounge awaits at Nadi International Airport, with comfy chairs scattered throughout.
Basic tea and coffee facilities, wireless Internet and friendly staff greet our morning departure, with the lounge offering a wheel-level view out onto the tarmac.
There are also continental breakfast options, but as you'll get brekky on board, we'd suggest using the lounge for a quick caffeine hit and one final sync of your emails rather than checking-in early and settling in for an extended stay.
Read our full review: Fiji Airways Tabua Lounge, Nadi Airport
Unlike the domestic-style reclining seats found on Fiji Airways' Boeing 737s, the A330s are kitted out with angled lie-flat beds in business class: Manufactured by Zodiac Seats, you'll recognise the same basic design aboard Singapore Airlines' regional A330s that fly from Brisbane to the Lion City, and on Virgin Australia's A330 flights between Perth and the east coast: For a five-hour flight during daylight hours, we really couldn't ask for more. There's everything from AC and USB power for your phone and laptop... ... to plenty of legroom for putting your feet up or stretching out... ... and heaps of storage space for your phone, wallet, passport and water bottle, plus a handy nook next to the USB outlet to keep your phone at hand while it's charging. There's also a coat hook next to the entertainment screen, but as the crew offer to hang jackets, you'll only need to use it when they're returned for landing. For getting some work done in the air, the tray table was sturdy enough to support a 3kg laptop without wabbling when I was typing... ... and when it's time to dine, kick back and take in a movie or enjoy a quick nap, the seat has a preset for each and a lumbar refresh massage feature – as you'd expect from a business class seat of this calibre. There's also a privacy divider that can be pulled out between the seats, which you'll spot behind the adjustable reading light: If you're in the aisle and your seatmate is working on their tan with the windows fully open, it's great for blocking out a good deal of the sunlight when trying to catch some shut-eye.
It's also most effective as a true privacy barrier for the passenger at the window, and makes that spot the most private place to sleep in business class on Fiji Air's A330s.
But for daytime flights such as this, the 'D' and 'E' seats in the centre group are the best in our books – they each have direct aisle access, there's nobody to step over as there is from the window, and there's nobody hopping over you as there is in the 'B' and 'J' seats.
With a 9am departure out of Fiji, breakfast is served.
Starting us off is a warmed croissant and toast with marmalade and butter, fresh fruit, yoghurt parfait and coffee in a patterned mug that matches the airline's new livery (and the pillows). The croissant was perfect, the toast fine and the fruit fresh, while the parfait was the highlight of the plate... ... it was well-presented, well-layered and absolutely delicious, but a shame to be accompanied by filter coffee rather than espresso as you'd expect in international business class.
For the main, we went with the cheese omelette filled with cream cheese and sundried tomato, served with a chicken sausage, potato, sautéed mushrooms and tomato: The dish was your typical airline breakfast, and was fine without being a standout.
Also on the menu are eggless crêpes filled with caramelised pineapple and coconut, dusted with cinnamon and served with berry compote and orange sauce: (Normally you'd choose just one dish, but we had the chance to sample both on today's flight.)
Once mixed with the condiments, the crêpes were surprisingly good – but were let down by the presentation.
Serving the compote and sauce in plastic containers isn't a good look when you're dining on china with metal cutlery – these would appear much nicer in china as well, or even better, offered as a choice by the crew and applied to the dish before serving it.
It's far from a bad drop and does the trick for a simple 'sparkling' breakfast, but there's a difference between sparking wine and champagne.
Entertainment & Service
With the seat itself considerably better than the Boeing 737s, along with it comes a much-improved entertainment system.
To compare, here's what you'll find in business class on Fiji Air's smaller jets... ... and here's what awaits at the pointy end on the A330s: There's a great selection of movies, TV shows and audio tracks to keep yourself entertained, plus the screen can also be used to operate the light and flight attendant call bell.
We settled with Saving Mr. Banks – a movie centred on the development of the 1964 film Mary Poppins – and with quality noise-cancelling headphones, we didn't miss a beat of this also-musical flick. When it comes to music, you can browse by artist, album or genre, with some modern Australian classics mixed in amongst the new releases and classical library:
However, we were a little perplexed that the crew came through the cabin a full half-hour before landing to collect the supplied headphones, after which the entertainment system was switched off entirely.
That'd be understandable if the screens emerge from the armrest and need to be stowed for take-off and landing, but when the same seatback system is used from gate to gate by other airlines, it's odd that Fiji Air chooses to disable theirs.
Collecting the headphones, rather than asking for them to be left in the seat pocket, also feels very 'economy'.
Otherwise, the crew addressed passengers by name in every interaction, promptly attended to arriving guests with offers to hang jackets and for pre-departure drinks, and were warm and friendly in their service without being intrusive or in the way.
Despite a few minor trimmings such as espresso coffee, champagne and non-stop gate-to-gate entertainment absent from the overall experience, the flight was rather pleasant and was conducive to both work and rest, which we were able to achieve in perfect balance.
We're curious how the angled lie-flat beds stack up for a good night's sleep on the airline's longer overnight flights, but on today's daytime service, we were more than satisfied.
You'll find Fiji Airways' A330 aircraft on selected flights between Sydney and Nadi, and from there onwards to Hong Kong and Los Angeles.
A return business class journey to Fiji costs roughly $1,600 in February 2015, with return business fares from Down Under to the USA averaging $4,400 in the same month.
More on Fiji Airways:
- Lounge review: Fiji Airways Tabua Lounge, Nadi Airport
- Fiji Airways overhauls business class meals, adds cocktails
- Fiji Airways opens new LAX business class lounge
- Review: Fiji Airways Boeing 737 business class: Sydney-Suva
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Fiji Airways.
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