Airline review: Fiji Airways, business class, Sydney to Nadi

THE PLANE

Boeing 737-800. These planes will be upgraded to the narrow-body Boeing 737 MAX 8s in 2018.

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Nadi, Fiji.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Partners with the frequent flyer programs of Alaska Airlines, American Airlines and Qantas Airways.

DURATION

Three hours, 40 minutes – 10 minutes faster than scheduled.

FREQUENCY

From Sydney twice daily, Brisbane daily, and Melbourne five times a week. From June 30, a new direct service from Adelaide will also be offered twice weekly.

THE SEAT

Business class 1F, window seat. The business class cabin has just eight seats, in a 2-2 layout; as the plane widens it moves to a 3-3 layout for the 152 economy seats. Business seats have a 48-inch (122-centimetre) pitch, and 18-inch (46-centimetre) recline.

BAGGAGE

Up to 30 kilograms. Carry-on is two bags of up to seven kilograms each, plus a small handbag, laptop or briefcase.

COMFORT

For a plane that is quite old and tired, the La-Z-Boy-style seats are very comfortable. Which is good news when you're flying at 6am and hoping to get some sleep on such a short flight, which I do with a little help from the blanket and small Polynesian print pillow provided. There's a decent amount of leg room (although there appears to be more in row two since you don't have the wall in front of you), but I can't manage to find a footrest, which I find myself craving once reclined.

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ENTERTAINMENT

There are no seat back screens on this flight, which has me mildly panicked until I'm offered an iPad 2, provided for all business class passengers. It comes loaded with a selection of Hollywood hits including La La Land, Lion and The Big Year, and TV shows including Westworld and Modern Family, plus a selection of cooking and travel shows. Decent CDs from the likes of John Legend and David Bowie help send me to sleep.

SERVICE

While I'm not quite ready for the pre-departure rum cocktails on offer, it being only 6.07am, just looking at them helps gets me in the holiday spirit. I've been told the Fiji Airways staff are some of the friendliest in the sky, a reflection of the abundant Fijian hospitality we all know and love, and I find them to be just that – beaming smiles, obliging and kind. Even if they sometimes seem to be on Fiji time when responding to drinks requests.

FOOD

On this morning's flight, an a la carte breakfast is offered. It's fresh fruit, blueberry granola with yoghurt and a small croissant, followed by a choice of scrambled egg chive crepe, Belgium waffles or herbed zucchini rosti. I choose the latter and, served up with sauteed spinach, grilled asparagus and braised beans, find it rather yummy. There's a French NV brut and two white wines on offer (Robert Oatley chardonnay from Australia; Waimea sauvignon blanc from New Zealand), but I stick to jasmine green tea and a small bottle of Fiji water.

ONE MORE THING

Fiji Airways offers onward connections to San Francisco, LA and Honolulu, which now makes Fiji a great stay-over destination on what can often otherwise be a killer flight.

THE VERDICT

Friendly staff, good food and entertainment, and a no-judgment approach to drinking before 7am. It all more than makes up for a bird that's a bit rough around the edges.

Tested by Nina Karnikowski who flew as a guest of Fiji Airways.

Our rating out of five: ★★★½

See also: Frequent flyer points loophole: Fly for less than $2000

See also: Five ways you can get upgraded on your next flight

See also: More airline reviews

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