Sydney to Nadi, Fiji
For Qantas's first foray back to Fiji – after a near-20-year absence – it's chosen the ultra-dependable Boeing 737-800, the narrow-bodied jet airliner that it flies on most of its domestic routes, as well as to New Zealand, Bali, Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia. It's not too big, not too small and very reliable.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Qantas Frequent Flyer, which is part of the oneworld alliance with more than 50 partner airlines and affiliates worldwide, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Qantas's low-cost younger sibling, Jetstar.
Four hours on the outward journey, departing Sydney at 10.30am and arriving at 3.30pm (Fiji is an hour ahead of Australian Eastern Daylight Time) in Nadi, Fiji's main tourism gateway. Return flights take just under four and a half hours, leaving Nadi at 4.35pm and landing in Sydney at 8pm.
Flight QF101 departs Sydney on Sundays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays each week, code-sharing with Fiji Airways, and QF102 returns the same day each week.
Qantas' business class check-in in Sydney is fast and efficient – and is it my imagination? – but the staff seem to be much more relaxed when you say you're off to Fiji rather than Los Angeles or Auckland. Fiji's like that; it just seems to bring a smile to everyone's faces. Arrival in Nadi is quick but laid-back, there's a ukulele band serenading all new arrivals and even the customs officials are happy to share a joke, a rare occurrence in that profession around the world.
1D, an aisle seat in a 2-2 seating configuration, so everyone has a chance to catch that first breathtaking glimpse of turquoise water, white sand and verdant greenery for which Fiji is so known. There are only three rows of business class, so just 12 of the comfy Marc Newson-designed soft brown leather seats, 37 inches (94 centimetres) pitch, with a width of 22 inches (56 centimetres) and a screen between them.
Qantas business-class passengers are entitled to two checked pieces of luggage to a maximum of 23 kilograms each and one carry-on cabin bag not exceeding 10 kilograms.
The business class seats are perfectly comfortable for such a short-haul flight and Qantas sets a familiar high standard. Fiji always attracts lots of families so there's usually a number of young children on the plane and, surprisingly, often also in business class. Naturally, it's much more spacious than Jetstar, which also flies frequently to Nadi, but Fiji Airways – which flies twice daily – uses the bigger A330-300s for some of its flights, with the advantage of flat beds in business. Do you really need to lie down for a four-hour flight? Maybe the option would be nice.
There are 10.6-inch (27 centimetres) in-arm flight entertainment touch-screens with on-demand movies, TV shows, audio and destination guides – although Fiji is too new to have yet been included. The choice is small compared to some airlines and routes, with just 20 movies, 16 TV box sets and then comedy, doco, reality, HBO, Stan, National Geographic and kids' options, but the selection is excellent. Better a smaller selection of great options than a vast amount of unappealing tosh.
The female flight attendants are attentive, but also relaxed and fun, as fits with the informality of the destination. They're chatty but not intrusive, friendly but not too familiar. That's a tricky balance, but they manage admirably. With such a small business class, they seem to have more time to give individual service.
This is the first time I've ever been served top-quality Brasserie Bread sourdough on a plane, which is an excellent start. Next is a choice of two entrees: a roast tomato soup with almond and parsley, or a crab salad with kipfler potatoes, picked fennel and smoked paprika. That's followed by a choice of three mains: poached chicken salad; seared Humpty Doo barramundi in a tamarind sauce; or seared beef fillet with roasted sweet potatoes. Finally there's ice cream or cheese or fresh fruit salad. No one goes hungry.
ONE MORE THING
My only quibble is that there's no menu; the attendants tell you what there is to eat and ask for your choice. That's a shame. Part of the pleasure of a business class flight, as well as a great time-killer, is poring over a beautifully presented menu, and picturing what's to come.
It's great to see Qantas returning to Fiji and giving us even more choice in how to get to one of our favourite holiday spots. This is an extremely pleasant way to get there and makes you wonder whether Fiji might also have an even bigger future as a welcome stop-off en route to Los Angeles.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE