I recently had the opportunity to fly from Los Angeles to Nadi, Fiji and then from Nadi onto Brisbane, Australia. On the LA to Nadi route Fiji Airways flies their newer Airbus A330 planes. From Nadi to Brisbane they fly their older Boeing 737s. There’s quite a difference between the two and between other airline business class products.
Airbus A330 LAX to NAN
Official Stats from FijiAirways.com:
Configuration: 24 Business Class seats and 249 Economy Class seats
Business Class seating: 60″ pitch, lie-flat 8 degree bed, in-seat video with 15.4” monitors, in-seat power and entertainment on demand
Economy Class seating: 31-32″ pitch, 7.5″ recline, in-seat video with 10.6” monitors, in-seat USB power and entertainment on demand
The website describes the seat as a lie-flat 8 degree bed. To me, that is deceptive as the seats do not actually recline to a true 180 degrees. I would (and have) described the seats as lie at an angle. The seats are awkward and took quite a bit of effort to get to that 8 degree position. It’s a shame that in the 12-18 month old planes Fiji Airways chose to go with an inferior seating product compared to other airlines that have the truly 180-degree lie-flat beds. The seats themselves were fairly comfortable otherwise.
One long thin pillow was on the seat when I arrived but there was no blanket. I was informed that I could help myself to a blanket from one of the overheads. There was also an amenity kit in the seat (which I’ll cover in more detail later.)
The space in-between the seats is minimal and provides for very little privacy. There is a small sliding divider that can be extended during flight, but it wasn’t much help. The seats are arranged in a 2x2x2 configuration and there is plenty of overhead space.
There is a small cubby under the seat divider where you could store something very small – the amenity kit didn’t even fit in the cubby. I put my charger in the cubby along with the eye mask and that’s all that fit. There is a lack of storage in the seats. In addition, you couldn’t really put anything (like a Macbook Air) next to you in the seat because there was a gap in-between the seat and divider which allowed everything to slide out of reach. There is an electrical outlet in the seat and in-seat monitors with a selection of TV shows, movies and music.
Overall, the A330 business class seats were disappointing because of the lack of privacy, storage and angled “lie-flat” seats. I would rate the US Airways Envoy seats much higher than these because of the space and privacy. I would also rate Air China’s Boeing 777 Business Class seats higher because of storage and space.
The Amenity Kit
The small cloth pouch was very, very sad. It contained a pair of socks, eye mask, toothbrush and ear plugs. That’s it. Nothing else. Even US Airways and Air China give you hand lotion and a few other goodies, like chap-stick.
Upon taking off we were presented with two menus – since the flight was departing at 11pm a light meal was offered about 1 hour after departure. I did not order anything, but saw my neighbor’s meal. It was not served in courses, like some airlines do, but was served all at once. There was a main dish in a tin-foil container, a roll and butter, a small salad and silverware. The meal didn’t look that appetizing.
Another surprise was that we were given bottled water – and it wasn’t Fiji Water! For some reason I’d expected Fiji Airways to serve the iconic water onboard.
The second menu we were handed was a fill-in the blank style order form with breakfast choices. The options were a full breakfast served 90 minutes before landing, a continental breakfast served 60 minutes before landing or coffee served 45 minutes before landing. I choose the full breakfast and ordered the omelet. When the meal was served it was accompanied by a yoghurt parfait, a croissant, a bowl of fruit, hot tea and the main meal. The omelet was served with mushrooms, a potato patty, and sausage link. It was all on the cold side. The omelet tasted like it was made from powdered eggs and it was filled with a cheese like substance. I’m not convinced that the eggs or cheese were real! The mushrooms were good, the fruit was good and so was the croissant.
Overall, the food was fair and bordering on bad. There’s really no comparison to any other international business class product I’ve experienced (and I think the only carrier I haven’t flown in/to this region is Korean.)
There were four flight attendants for the 24 business class seats. The flight was full with one open seat in business class for the pilots use. The flight attendants were friendly and helpful. They certainly weren’t as attentive as most Asian airlines crews, but did a good job overall. The uniforms are flower patterned and match the brown and teal motif of the airplanes.
It is very nice that there’s a direct daily option between LA and Fiji (they also fly a limited schedule weekly from San Fran to Fiji.) The fight is a codeshare with Qantas and American Airlines operated by Fiji Airways. I was able to credit the miles earned from my trip to American Airlines, which was nice. The airport in Fiji is not great and doesn’t make for a great lay-over. The terminal is warm and jam packed (even at 6am when I landed.) The Tabula lounge was very small, old and smelled like mildew. In fact, we had to leave the lounge at 6:30am because the toilets flooded and water was spilling into the lounge. We were however given a $20 FJD food voucher. I wouldn’t choose to fly Fiji Airways again unless I really wanted a direct flight to Fiji. I’d rather layover in Beijing or Seoul even though it adds 2 hours to the trip.
The Boeing 737
Official Stats from FijiAirways.com:
Total capacity: 122
Saleable configuration: 8 Business Class | 114 Economy Class
Business Class seating: 48″ pitch, 18″ recline, in-seat video with 6 video channels and 10 audio channels
Economy Class seating: 29-32″ pitch, 6″ recline. Drop down screens every 3 rows, with main screen video and 10 audio channels.
The seats on the 737 are old, old, old. Even though the website said there was in-seat video, there was no video on this flight, there was audio. The seats are what you’d see on US Airways domestic first class with perhaps slightly more leg room. There were no pillows or blankets and no headphones provided. There was no amenity kit either. It’s a good thing the flight from Nandi to Brisbane is only 4 hours 15 minutes.
Breakfast was served on this flight, even though it was much closer to lunch time. There was a choice of the exact same omelet I’d had on the last flight or egg-free crepes with pineapple and blueberry sauce. The crepes were actually edible and made for a nice light meal. The fruit served with the plate were not ripe and had very little flavor, but weren’t inedible. Again, the food was disappointing for an international flight.
The crew as friendly and did their best to make the flight enjoyable. There were two flight attendants for the 8 business class seats, one of the two was the head flight attendant and didn’t really do much other than make announcements, though she was very friendly. There were three pilots on my fight – one of them was a pilot in training. I kind of wish they’d not shared that with us.
This flight was like any US Domestic product you’ve likely experienced – and in some cases, worse. I would not waste money or miles in the future to fly on Fiji Airways Boeing 737 business class. There’s really nothing else to say about the flight.
In Summary: Fiji Airways A330 Business Class vs B737 Business Class
I wasn’t overly impressed with Fiji Airways business class products though the A330 far exceeds the B737 experience. The direct flight from LA to Fiji would likely be the only reason I’d fly them again.