Most Aussie travellers jetting to Fiji with Fiji Airways will find themselves aboard the airline's Boeing 737 jets, which offer business class service between Nadi and Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide, and between Sydney and Suva too.
While there are no fully-flat beds as you'd find on the airline's longer Airbus A330 flights to Asia and North America, and on selected Sydney-Nadi departures, business class provides a comfortable reclining seat for the relatively short journey en route to Fiji.
Australian Business Traveller reviews a recent return business class trek between Brisbane and Nadi.
- Frequent flyer program: Fiji Airways has no frequent flyer program of its own, but Qantas Frequent Flyer members can earn points and status credits on Fiji Airways flights with an FJ or QF codeshare flight number, and can redeem points on Fiji Airways flights too.
- Checked baggage allowance: 40kg across any number of bags when travelling solely between Australia and Fiji; a reduced 1x30kg if your journey continues onwards to Honolulu; or a boosted 3x30kg (90kg) when jetting beyond to Los Angeles or San Francisco with Fiji Airways.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x7kg bags on all international jet routes, plus a non-rigid garment bag or one small personal item such as a laptop or purse.
- Airport fast-track: Priority check-in, passport control, boarding and baggage delivery in both Brisbane and Nadi, plus priority security in Brisbane. If you've completed online check-in on flights from Australia and have no checked baggage, do still visit the airport check-in desks to fetch an Express Path card and have your passport sighted, which saves you time later.
In Brisbane, Fiji Airways' business class passengers can access the recently-revamped Qantas international business class lounge:
I stopped by at 9am on a weekday for my morning latte...
... joined by a made-to-order Egg Benedict from the Brisbane Breakfast Hatch on the lounge's upper level, which is a nice break from typical airline lounge buffets:
AC and USB charging ports are available throughout the lounge, as is wireless Internet. I measured downloads speeds of 79-82Mbps, uploads of 86-87Mbps and ping speeds of 28ms during my stay, which is fast enough to support large file transfers and high-definition video streaming.
Private shower suites are on-hand, too – particularly useful before Fiji Airways' overnight flights from Brisbane to Nadi which on Thursdays and Saturdays, less so before the airline's morning flights on the other days.
Boarding calls are made here, but the announcement for this flight referred to "Air Pacific 920 to Nadi", skipping the most important keyword, "Fiji", which many less-experienced travellers may be listening out for: particularly when the airline has been known as Fiji Airways, rather than Air Pacific, for over five years.
That boarding call also came 20 minutes too early – I left the lounge only to find that boarding wasn't close to commencing yet.
Before the flight home from Nadi, business class passengers can also access the new Fiji Airways Premier Lounge, which replaces the old (and very tired) Tabua Lounge.
Inside, a modern space with zones for dining, working and relaxing...
... plus a new cocktail bar with all-day barista coffee, too:
Boarding calls are made here, but again came too early – so for the second time this trip, I reached the gate 20 minutes before boarding commenced: time that could be better-spent in the lounge.
At the pointy end sits a cosy cabin of just eight business class seats, spread across two rows in a 2-2 arrangement.
Being a mere 3.5-hour flight – four hours on the return leg – there are no flatbeds here, but the seats comfortably recline with a fold-up leg rest, a swing-down foot rest, adjustable lumbar support and a winged headrest which slides up to accommodate taller travellers.
Those controls are found to the side of the seat, except for the headrest which you can adjust directly:
Having flown with Fiji Airways before, I knew to select a seat in the second row for maximum legroom – boosted even further if all your bags are in the overhead lockers, as you can avail of the space underneath the seat in front too:
(To compare, here's the legroom in row one, where you can't stretch your feet as far forward:)
Row two also offers a larger storage pocket in front, ample for smartphones, laptops and everything in between...
... with a cocktail table fixed in between each pair of seats as well:
AC and USB power is absent, however, so don't forget to charge your devices before the flight.
The journey begins with a drink before take-off, but rather than the typical choices of Champagne, juice or water, Fiji Airways serves its signature cocktail, a Laucala Sour, mixing two types of Fiji Rum (Rare Liqueur and Golden Honey), lemon syrup and apple juice for a great pre-departure kick:
A non-alcoholic alternative is the Fijian Punch: a surprisingly tasty mocktail of lemon and barley syrup, squeezed lime and lemonade, garnished with lemon and lime slices and finished with a cherry, as I enjoyed on the flight home:
Out of Brisbane, an 11:15am departure and a 4:50pm arrival into Nadi sees lunch served after take-off, but not before another round of drinks and some snacks. Here, I opted for the Prince Laurent Champagne – an improvement over the Tempus Two sparkling wine that Fiji Airways used to serve.
Lunch begins with a garden salad. There's balsamic dressing on the side so you can pour to your taste, and bread from the bread basket:
That's followed by a main course from the following options:
- Crusted chicken breast with mango cream sauce, egg and sweet corn fried rice, snap peas and carrots
- Beef hot pot with mashed potato, broccoli and roasted pumpkin
- Spinach and Parmesan crespelle (Italian-style crêpe) with roasted red pepper sauce, zucchini, red capsicum and grated parmesan
I went for the crusted chicken breast, which turned out to be one of the tastiest inflight meals I've had in a long time, with the sauce offering an unexpected but very welcome spicy kick:
To finish, either a mango pannacotta with mango salsa, or a cheese plate. As the mango in my lunch main was subtle rather than prominent, I didn't mind taking the mango path again, especially on a Fiji-bound flight.
After lunch, the crew came through the cabin regularly to top up glasses without being asked, to offer tea and coffee, and chocolates before landing, with bottled water also found at each seat.
On my evening flight home from Fiji – FJ923 from Nadi to Brisbane, departing at 8:40pm local time to reach Brisbane at 9:40pm – the dinner service followed a similar format, beginning with another fresh salad, and this time, the option of garlic bread from the basket...
... with the main course offering the following choices:
- Beef goulash with sweet potato and potato dauphinoise (baked in milk), buttered broccoli and honey carrots
- Chicken tikka masala with makhani sauce, basmati jeera rice and sautéed green beans
- Tomato risotto with green beans, roasted pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant and shaved Parmesan cheese, topped with mixed leaves and watercress
I went for the beef goulash, which didn't photograph too well in the evening-lit cabin, but was tasty nonetheless...
... with the cheese plate to conclude (in place of a salted caramel chocolate tartlet), and a glass of port on the side:
Compared to my last Fiji Airways business class flight – where there were no pre- or post-departure drinks, no Champagne or cocktails, meals weren't well-presented and butter for bread was only available 'on request' – this is a huge improvement, and on this relatively short flight, I couldn't have asked for more.
2014 review: Fiji Airways Boeing 737 business class, Sydney-Suva
Entertainment & Service
Another aspect I wasn't pleased about on my last Fiji Airways trek was the crummy inflight entertainment screens on the airline's Boeing 737s, which offered only five channels of entertainment on my last flight: two of which weren't even working properly.
Now, those tiny screens are still there, if you pull them out from within the armrest...
... but they're no longer in service. Instead, the airline now offers business class passengers an iPad, loaded with movies and TV shows – in high definition, where available – and music too, which is another significant improvement.
Over-ear headphones are provided, and while they're not active noise-cancelling, the sound quality was reasonable and their design did help to block out some background noise. I still whipped out my own noise-cancelling pair for use during the flight, but didn't mind reverting to the supplied set for landing so that mine could be packed away.
However, as there's nowhere to mount the iPad, you won't be able to watch anything during meal time: that's where my BYO Microsoft Surface came in handy, which I slotted into the forward seat pocket and paired to my Bluetooth headphones to help pass the time.
(The Surface has a sturdy fixed stand behind it, whereas the iPad had only a soft cover which you can't position in the same way.)
That said, on daytime flights between Australia and Fiji, 'inflight entertainment' can also be had by looking out the window at the right time.
For example, around two hours into the journey when the aircraft overflies New Caledonia, you might want to keep your camera handy...
... ditto closer to landing when overflying Fiji's green landscapes, where on this rainy day, I also spotted a rainbow:
Overall, this business class experience is leaps and bounds better than the Fiji Airways of yesteryear, with the crew also greeting passengers by name, giving their warmest welcomes, and offering drinks to complement each course (such as liqueur or port with dessert).
That'll be improved again when the airline starts taking delivery of new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft later this year, which will eventually replace the current Boeing 737s flying to Australia – and I'm told, will introduce charging ports at each business class seat, one of the only things missing from the current experience.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Nadi as a guest of Fiji Airways.