During December 2019, I was lucky enough to squeeze in a trip to Australia and further beyond – in the days before coronavirus diminished travel opportunities.
As part of my trip, I managed to fly Fiji Airways’ brand new Airbus A350-900 between Sydney and Nadi, and filmed the experience for my YouTube channel:
Check in for business class was at Area B in Terminal 1 at Sydney. I was early; there was no queue, and the process of dropping my bag was painless.
Fiji Airways is a Oneworld Connect partner – while not being a full alliance member, one of its sponsors into the alliance is Qantas, and as a result business class passengers may use Qantas’ business class lounge on the mezzanine in departures.
It’s a solid lounge with decent food and drink and I was able to grab a small salad and a coffee while I killed time before departure.
Fiji Airways’ A350s were originally due to be delivered to Hong Kong Airlines, who suddenly dropped their order, allowing Fiji to jump the delivery queue. Thus, Fiji’s aircraft are the two destined for Hong Kong Airlines, and they were delivered ahead of schedule.
The livery is one of the most distinctive in the skies, and features traditional Fijian tapa – patterns which are prevalent in clothing fashion on the island.
Onboard, there are 33 Collins Super Diamond business class seats in a 1-2-1 layout. The cabin finishes were clean and impressive.
Airbus A350s now have large overhead bins as standard, although not all airlines decided to fit them over the central aisle (Qatar being a notable example).
A selection of drinks was available prior to pushback, including champagne.
Fiji Airways has invested in external cameras in the tail and the belly, which is one of my favourite options for inflight entertainment.
Takeoff was punctual and we immediately turned right to head northeast towards Fiji.
The airline included a seat guide, but as this is such a common type of seat, there was no need for me to acquaint myself with it.
The Super Diamond is a good all round seat with no specific weaknesses, and plenty of storage:
Couple that with sensible button placement, avoiding the tendency to knock the seat controls accidentally…
…and strategically positioned seats with small privacy shields, and you’ve got a very solid product in my view.
There are also individual air vents, which are surprisingly not standard with new aircraft deliveries.
Fiji’s food offering is good, and distinctive to the airline. As a small nation, Fiji relies on its national airline to project its culture around the world.
The main course of walu fillet was excellent. Served with a pea risotto and pumpkin slice, this was a genuinely unique dish I haven’t seen elsewhere on my travels. The fish had a wonderful buttery texture, similar to a cross between tuna and salmon.
A simple fruit bowl finished the meal off.
Surprisingly, bedding is available on such a short flight – Sydney to Nadi is just 3 hours 45 minutes on average – and I took the opportunity to test the 80 inch bed. It was comfortable and on a par with much larger international airlines.
The one area that Fiji Airways fell short was in the limited inflight entertainment – its competitors on this route, Virgin Australia and Qantas, offer much more extensive selections, and Delta for example are even installing a binge button, such is the level of content it provides…
..and the Wifi, which is data-capped, but this is not made clear when logging in.
Touchdown was smooth, although a storm was brewing to the east. As I later found out, this was quite a big storm and I felt lucky to have landed when I did!
This flight set me back 801 AUD – about £420, one way. It’s not cheap by European standards, but in line with regional quirks in Oceania, and was well worth it to test out this unique airline’s brand new aircraft.