Airline review: Virgin Australia, Boeing 737-800, Economy X class, Fiji to Sydney

THE ROUTE

Flight VA184 Nadi (Fiji) to Sydney.

THE AIRCRAFT

Boeing 737-800.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Velocity Frequent Flyer and points earned can be redeemed with Singapore Airlines, United Airlines and (soon) Qatar Airways, among others. 

CLASS

Economy X, seat 4F (window).

DURATION

Four hours, 50 minutes. There's a slight delay to boarding due to the late arrival of the aircraft. A bad storm means waiting on the tarmac for another 30 minutes. We make up the time in the air.

CARBON EMISSIONS

Using an online calculator, my estimated carbon use for the 3200 kilometre flight is around 0.544 tonnes. Virgin Australia offers a certified Fly Carbon Neutral offset and the airline has committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.

FREQUENCY

Sydney to Nadi five times a week; direct services from Melbourne and Brisbane are set to resume in the coming months. Daily flights from Sydney are scheduled during the school holidays.

CHECKING IN

There's no queue at the Virgin Australia counter, and check-in is relatively seamless. It's my first time using the new Australian government-mandated Digital Passenger Declaration (DPD) app, and staff accept all my electronically-submitted and approved documents by checking my phone.

BAGGAGE

Economy and Economy X passengers are allowed one standard piece of carry-on luggage weighing up to seven kilos, plus one personal item. The checked luggage limit is 23kg.

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THE SEAT

, The main selling point for Virgin's Economy X upgraded experience is priority boarding and 40 per cent more legroom, depending on which Economy X row you're in. My seat has 34 inches (86 centimetrees) of legroom and is 17 inches (43 centimetres) wide. The seat is covered in crumbs when I board, and while there is ample legroom, the seat is quite narrow and I'm glad there's an empty seat next to me.

HEALTH

Fiji no longer requires a PCR test prior to arriving, but visitors must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and get a rapid antigen test (RAT) upon arrival.

Masks are required at Nadi airport; there are hand sanitising stations and social distancing stickers everywhere. Virgin Australia planes use HEPA filters, and an announcement is made during boarding that they sanitise the plane every flight.

Wearing a mask is mandatory on board the flight; however, many passengers don't wear one for the duration, and crew don't appear to enforce this beyond two short announcements during boarding.

ENTERTAINMENT

There's no seat back entertainment, the inflight magazine is long gone and while there is WI-FI available, the Virgin Australia app needs to be downloaded before the flight to access entertainment.

SERVICE

Service has a cool-kids feel to it: crew joke and are friendly with those passengers they connect with, and tend to not make as big an effort with those they don't.

FOOD

Items on a limited snack menu are available for purchase: cup noodles, crisps, muffins and drinks. On an almost five-hour plus international flight, it's a little long to not offer passengers a basic complimentary snack. It's good to see dietary options clearly marked on the menu.

ONE MORE THING

Virgin Australia continues to offer free booking flexibility up to 31 December, 2022 for international travel.

VERDICT

The fact that staff (and passengers) seemed indifferent to mandatory mask requirements makes for an uncomfortable flight.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★1/2

Shaney Hudson travelled as the guest of Tourism Fiji and Virgin Australia

See virginaustralia.com

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See also: Sneak peek inside Virgin's new exclusive, invites-only lounge

See also: Airline review: Fiji Airways Airbus A350 economy class