Airline review: Fiji Airways, Sydney to Nadi, business class on its new Airbus A350-900 XWB

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Nadi, on the new plane's delivery flight, ahead of its inaugural commercial flight.

THE AIRCRAFT

A $US320 million Airbus A350-900 XWB (extra wide body), the first of two to join the Fiji Airways fleet before Christmas. The airline  will offer a daily A350-900 service from Sydney to Los Angeles via Nadi, and there are plans for flights to other eastern US states. 

LOYALTY SCHEME

Tabua Club provides business-class passengers with access to 13 lounges, including the Qantas lounge in Sydney.

CLASS

Business

DURATION

Three hours and 45 minutes

FREQUENCY

Daily

THE SEAT

I'm in seat 16K, a window seat in a 1-2-1 formation, one of 33 fully reclining SuperDiamond flat beds, each with direct aisle access and a 62-inch (157 centimetres) pitch. Longer-legged economy passengers can pay extra to book one of 39 Bula Space seats, which are in a 3-3-3 formation but offer that all important extra three inches (about 7.6cm) of leg room. 

ENTERTAINMENT

The 17 inch high-definition touch screen TV is expansive. Not so the Thales in-flight entertainment system shared through all cabin classes. The selection of 56 movies is short on new releases and skewed towards tested family favourites such as The Sound of Music. The system also offers  more than 200 music albums, 10 games, 36 TV shows, ​Wi-Fi connectivity, USB and power ports.

CHECKING IN

Business class passenger don't usually do queues but at 4.30am I'm in a long line of selfie-obsessed schoolies trying to escape teary mums and anxious dads. Fortunately, one young lady spots an elderly passenger and asks, "Would you like some help checking in, sir?" Turns out, I do. I should be on the other side aisle, for business class passengers.

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BAGGAGE

Up to 40 kilograms in business, plus two pieces of cabin baggage up to 7kgs each.

COMFORT

This plane is so new you can all but smell Toulouse, and even the business-class flight attendants don't know where the headsets are hidden, or how to release the sliding food tray table. But overall, the comfort factor is perfect. Will you need a flat bed for the short flight to Nadi? Yes, if you've checked in at Sydney airport at 4.30am for a 6am departure and an important business meeting. It will be all the more so if you're on one of the connecting A350 flights to LA from Nadi, the first of which is planned for December 22.

SERVICE

Fiji Airways's South Pacific service has always set a high standard.The airline was voted the world's fourth most improved airline in the 2019 Skytrax poll, and its cabin crew were in the top 20 for the first time. They deserve it.

FOOD

A Fijian rum cocktail before a 6am take-off? Why not? Once we're airborne we're offered yoghurt coulis, a fruit plate and a choice of four mains (one vegetarian, another a sweet pancake). My "hot" choice - a baked sandwich with shaved chicken, cheese, tomato chutney and bechamel sauce - arrives lukewarm. Apparently there's a problem with the new ovens.

ONE MORE THING

The A350-900 is one of the most fuel-efficient aircraft in the world. In another bow to the environment, Fiji Airways plants one mangrove tree for every take off, a total of about 12,000 since 2017.

VERDICT

The A350-900 is a significant investment for Fiji. The island nation's Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, is on this flight and says "This is more than a plane. It's a symbol of Fiji's modernity."

STARS

★★★★½

Steve Meacham was a guest of Fiji Airways.

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