Airline review: Fiji Airways economy, Sydney to Nadi

Our rating

4.5 out of 5

The cabin is spotlessly clean and the aircraft feels fresh, despite being a few years old.

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-200, which has 273 seats (249 in economy, 24 in business). Fiji Airways has four newish A330s (one A330-300; three A330–200s) in its fleet. From 2018, all of the airline's narrow body fleet will be upgraded to Boeing 737 Max 8s.

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Nadi

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Fiji Airways partners with Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Qantas frequent flyer programs.

CLASS

Economy, window seat 35K. I'm seated next to my daughter, who is in an aisle seat.

DURATION

Scheduled to last three hours and 55 minutes, we depart Sydney late so land after 7pm (roughly 25 minutes late).

THE SEAT

It's a 2-4-2 configuration and I'm seated by the window. The fabric seat has a pitch of 32 inches (81 centimetres) and a 7.5-inch recline. There's a cup holder, USB charger, 23-centimetre Panasonic touchscreen and in-seat AC power. Cleverly, the fold-down tray table tells passengers where the AC power socket is located.

BAGGAGE

The checked baggage allowance is 23 kilograms (40 kilograms for business) plus one piece of carry-on up to seven kilograms. Be wary if flying domestically with Fiji Airways to the outer islands. The baggage allowance domestically is 15 kilograms and they will charge you for excess luggage.

COMFORT

When we arrive at our seat there's no pillow or blanket. However, the cabin attendant quickly rustles some up (a small pillow and soft blanket). The cabin is spotlessly clean (including the toilet to the rear of economy) and the aircraft, now three to four years old, still feels fresh. It's a daytime flight so we settle in to watch a couple of movies.

ENTERTAINMENT

Aside from the in-flight magazine FijiTime, the entertainment system offers a fair selection of new release movies, as well as classics and comedies, a TV program, an audio channel and a dedicated kids' channel. I watch The Light Between Oceans, which I've been wanting to see. The audio made the dialogue difficult to hear, however. Passengers should be aware that there's no seat-back entertainment on Fiji Airways' current 737s which we flew on the return leg (only an overhead screen showing the kids' movie Rio, which was nigh on impossible to see or hear). This made it seem like a long flight.

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SERVICE

We checked in online, which saved time at the airport (there was no one in the bag-only queue). It felt like we started our holiday the moment we stepped onboard. Huge smiles, and greetings of ''Bula'' greeted us from male and female cabin attendants dressed in smart rich chocolate brown and aqua uniforms with distinct masi motifs. Some female attendants wear a frangipani (albeit a plastic one) tucked behind one ear. The service is super friendly, and delivered with lashings of Fijian hospitality. If they can't help you with something straightaway, they're back in a jiffy with a solution. I felt like we'd stepped into Fiji time, minus the delays or hold-ups sometimes associated with it. And if you're travelling with children, expect five-star treatment.

FOOD

It's a 1pm departure so we're offered a choice of vegetarian ravioli or chicken strips in a cream sauce for lunch. There's no vegetarian left so they offer to get me one from business class. Nice touch. It's a huge portion and delicious. There's a choice of red or white wine, soft drink, beer or fruit juice from the drink cart. The meal also includes chocolate mousse, water, cheese and crackers. My daughter's kids' meal is a thick fettucine pasta with bolognese sauce, bread roll with butter, a very rich dessert and some sort of chocolate drink. Ella opts for water instead of the sugary drink (only because she's well trained).

ONE MORE THING

Depending on availability, upgrading to business may be an option at check-in with fees starting from $400. Go on, live a little. See fijiairways.com

THE VERDICT

Fiji Airways is my preferred way to fly to Fiji. It's a full-service airline for a start. However, the warmth and charm of the flight crew puts you in holiday mode from the get-go. The A330, which flies six times a week from Sydney to Nadi daily (except Wednesdays), is preferable over the existing 737s.

Tested by Sheriden Rhodes, who flew courtesy of Fiji Airways