Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ll know that Fiji Airways is the reborn Air Pacific (previously run by Qantas). But Fiji has now branded its international airline with a new name, a new logo, great new livery and uniforms.
The new look and image is really smart. Don’t know about you, but the white and two-tone brown livery with the distinctive tail covered in a Fijian Masi cloth design (Masi is the Fijian word for tapa or bark cloth) is very striking and really stands out at any airport. It’s a credit to the reborn airline.
And with that, Fiji Airways has launched itself aggressively into the US market giving airlines like Virgin, Qantas, United and Delta a run for their money. It’s now a great way to get to the States via Fiji. So when I wanted to get back from LA recently, I flew Fiji Airways.
Fiji Airways Economy Class
I’d heard mixed reviews about the food but the schedule and price suited me, so off I went.
The stewards are all dressed in smart brown and turquoise blue uniforms with tapa design trim.
This geometric design is reproduced across everything – the cushions, blankets, drinking mugs, even the salt and pepper sachets. The seats are a light ivory with fabric covered seats.
The planes are all brand spanking new, which makes a nice change from the tired interiors on some airlines.
But why am I talking about design? Quite honestly there’s only one thing to talk about on a Fiji Airways (sometimes mistakenly referred to as Fiji Airlines) flight and that is the crew – they have the same patience, grace, beautiful smiles and easy going nature of all Fijians – that kind of personal service and “Welcome Home” feel that counts for a lot when you’re flying economy – as I was.
The staff are extremely nice and pleasant – it’s hard to imagine a Fijian being rude; hospitality and graciousness is in their blood.
Now to the bad bits:
Fiji Airways Economy Seat 7J (front row of economy)
Seats in economy are quite tightly packed – the row formation at front and for most of economy is 2-4-2, however this changes at the back where, ironically, there seems a bit more room.
Many of the passengers on board were large – big and tall -– what appeared to be Fijian males.
There’s a reason the Fijian and Tongans make great (read “big burly”) footballers. It’s because they’re built like trucks – and I mean that in the nicest of ways.
Why is it relevant? Because some of those very “well built” males seemed to have difficulty fitting into their seats and their long legs and arms dangle out the sides. I know because I nearly tripped over a few of them enroute to the toilets.
Fiji Airways Economy – The food
I can live with that. What I generally can’t live with is bad food. I’m a foodie and a former food reviewer.
I have to say that I was underwhelmed by the food and not just in a Qantas food type way. It was seriously bad.
On take off at 10.30 pm from LAX we were served a chicken burger which was made of some sort of processed chicken meat and melted cheese.
Having come from the epicentre of good burgers (such as LA’s Burger Lounge’s) I wasn’t expecting quite that standard, but it wasn’t even in the same stratosphere.
A congealed mass of processed chicken and Macdonalds-type cheese plus a small cup of mayonnaise-drenched coleslaw and a highly over-sugared slice of cake – the type you get in plastic in a packet at a supermarket – meant supper was very much a Maccas quality meal.
All up, it was plastic, processed food. Breakfast was not that not much better.
Maybe I’m just expecting too much, but it was a pretty rubbery “egg omelette” with mushrooms and chicken sausage on the side plus a small amount of diced fruit salad.
Apparently Fiji Airways recently changed its menu following customer complaints however they must have just re-done business and by-passed economy if that’s the case as, based on my experience, its hard to see how this could be any improvement.
Fiji Airways Economy – The service
However (back to the good bits) the flight was absolutely flawless under Captain Peter Ross (yep I remember his name I think I’ve heard his dulcet tones on QF before). Ross made a textbook soft landing arriving one hour earlier than scheduled.
The hostesses and stewards are distinguished however by their natural charm and ease – continually smiling and obliging.
It’s not in their nature to roll their eyes or tell passengers off as some airline staff closer to home like to do.
So, if affability and service is important to you, then fly Fiji Airways. I noticed a number of economy passengers wandering forward into business but instead of getting the demeaning ticking off that would have greeted them on another airline they were greeted with a warm welcome and information. Interesting.
There was no amenity kit but the headphones included a dental kit, which is a nice touch for economy. Plus the new inflight mag is a great read, particularly the story on 24 hours in LA by a certain Karen Halabi.
Apart from that and the newish planes, it was very similar to other economy classes.
Now let’s step it up a notch…
Fiji Airways Business Class
Nadi to Sydney
Departed Nadi 6.30 pm arr into Sydney 10.30 pm flight time 3.5 hours Boeing 737-800. Seat 1E.
Once again I landed in the front row on a smaller plane – the Boeing 737-800 that had only 12 seats in business (3 rows of 2 x 2).
Unfortunately I didn’t find the full reclining sleeper seats that are on the larger planes but it was still much more comfortable and roomy than economy.
The seats appear as normal seats but they have a control panel built into the left side of the seat that controls inbuilt lumbar support, footrests, leg rest and recline positions.
The control panel for this was on the left side of the passenger seat.
There were only 12 seats – three rows of 2+2 across in Business Class on this leg so it’s a very small area.
TV screens lifted up out of the front of the seat. One small downer – no USB charging port and no power point, something that might miff a business traveller.
On this leg it’s usually only $250-$300 to upgrade anyway and according to frequent flyer Patrice Belle, the sales and marketing manager at Tokoriki resort, sometimes business can be cheaper than normal economy, so it’s worth keeping an eye out for these specials, she says.
But why wouldn’t you pay a bit extra for all that extra comfort? That upgrade also gets you into the business class lounge, particularly useful if you have a bit of a layover between legs.
The big improvement between economy and business was the quality of the food. That and the more personalised one-on-one attention from a lovely stewardess (see the video snippet).
We were handed glossy four colour five page menus on take off which were actually flip-style brochures that talked about the chef (Lance Seeto) the flavours of Fiji, the drinks and the food menu.
Seeto is Fiji’s Neil Perry with a TV show, book and restaurant based around his style of fusion cuisine. Now he’s Fiji Airways’ executive chef. All I can say is “Lance, get thee to economy!”
I had a glass of Tempus Two blanc de blanc followed by mini canapés (pumpkin and chutney tarts), spice rubbed “wild” fish, a fleshy white fish in a mild curry sauce and, to finish, a banana pudding with coconut sauce.
The seats were just comfortable enough to stretch out on post-meal –pity it was such a short flight.
Would I recommend Fiji Airways? Yes, just pack your own burger if you’re flying economy!
I’m quite partial to Burger Lounge’s grass fed beef burger with gluten free bun, but there’s also the Ahi Tuna Burger with lime mayo.
Then you could always pick one up from Wolfgang Puck’s Cut in Beverly Hills before you leave. Hell I’d even settle for an In’N’Out Burger. Just saying.
Karen Halabi was a guest of Fiji Airways
While in Fiji, have you considered treating yourself to a luxury overwater bungalow retreat? Fijians are a friendly lot so make sure you visit a local Fijian village, especially if you’re travelling with the kids.