An operational delay meant my time in the lounge was extended as the boarding was pushed back. But as I had gotten tired of the lounge, I decided to take a look at the departure hall in the day. It was actually not bad as sunlight streamed in. And with most of the flights having departed earlier, it was not crowded at all, giving me some space to capture some nice shots of the ‘Home of Fiji Airways’.
FJ411 Nadi NAN – Auckland AKL
Airbus A330-200 DQ-FJV “Island Of Yasawa-i-rara”
Gate 1-2-3 Seat 1A
Most of the time, the A330s will use gates 1-2-3 or gate 7 as these are the one that can accommodate the larger size planes. For this leg, the delay meant it was the only wide-body left remaining in Fiji and with all the gates close from the lounge, spare probably 5 minutes or so.
Boarding here was unusual as passengers walk across the outdoor covered walkway towards the plane and in this case, I got a very nice overview of the plane directly in front. Clear skies and fine weather made for a fantastic view and with many passengers taking photos along the way, it meant there was no rush to board the plane. This is great since I was one of the first to exit the gate and having taken my share of photos, proceeded to enter the plane.
Inside, I was greeted by a Business Class cabin in a 2-2-2 layout. While these seats are not the best for single travellers, I was travelling with a friend and it was definitely comfortable for a 3-hour flight.
A blanket and pillow was placed on every seat, and the patterns add a layer of contrast to the beige leather seats.
Once we were seated and comfortable, the crew went around offering welcome drinks. Pre-departure beverage of Fijian rum, a Fijian Punch citrus mocktail or Fiji water was available from the tray. Since I wanted to be awake and alert for the connecting flight that I would be taking once in Auckland, I chose the mocktail instead. Don’t want to get too tipsy in the morning.
Meanwhile, passengers in Business Class could also find Fiji water bottles placed below the armrest in the centre. After the drinks were offered, another crew member
went around with cold towels as this is a tropical country after all.
Whilst boarding was underway, I checked out the seat and found it to be more or less similar to the one installed in Singapore Airlines’ regional fleet. The hardback seat meant passengers would not intrude on space and being seated in the bulkhead, there was plenty of space in front of you. The drawback to this is that your personal monitor is located further away. On the pocket underneath the screen, passengers can find an over-the-ear headset which is definitely a notch above the one in Economy and common in many Business Class cabins. Though I usually travel with my personal one thus have no need for this.
On the right side of the seat below the armrests, passengers can find a power outlet as well as a USB outlet that charges your phone and connects it to the video monitor so passengers can play their own video file.
An efficient boarding meant it took approximately 40 minutes before the plane made its pull back from the gate and made a direct turnaround towards the runway.
The take-off was smooth under the clear weather conditions and passengers on the window side was treated to a great view under the morning sun. It was fantastic to see the lush greenery of Fiji island under clear blue skies. In fact seeing the pristine waters off the coast as we leave Fiji made me eager to visit the country on the return trip!
Menus were handed out once we reached cruising altitude while another crew member came along with New Zealand immigration cards.
The menu onboard Fiji includes those for other flights since it seems they re-use them. The page with the heading of ‘Breakfast’ indicates the choice for this morning departure, though the rest of the menu can be confusing for the non-frequent traveller. A wine and beverage list can be found at the last few pages of the menu.
After checking out the food and deciding on my choice, I reclined the seat to a comfortable position. Generally I prefer Business Class seats that has both a pre-set button to convert to a lie-flat immediately and a customizable seat position. These seats have both types of buttons and it was easy to create a nice lounging position.
Breakfast orders were taken shortly after we reached cruising altitude and crew also asked if we wanted any drinks to go with the breakfast. I would suggest passengers to order something here as otherwise they would not provide drinks with breakfast until coffee or tea is offered in between the granola and the main course.
The first course of yogurt with berry and granola parfait was enjoyable though the fruit bowl could have been better as it did not seem to be fresh or sufficiently refrigerated. After the crew have finished serving the first course, coffee and tea is offered on the Fiji Airways mug. I thought it would be cool if the airline actually sell these mugs through their inflight shopping catalogue.
A short while later, the main course was served individually with my friend opting for the cheese omelette while I had the french toast. Presentation-wise, the dish fails miserably and unfortunately the whole dish was not particularly good either. I regretted not going for the omelette since I could not taste any hazelnut and the bread was too thick and lacks any other flavour other than that of pure syrup.
Fortunately the meal service came with a croissant on the side which I finished as it tasted at least better than the French Toast. Still, the croissant was not fluffy or crispy either as the image below shows.
After the meal service concluded, I made my way to the lavatory to freshen up and check out the amenities. Like all premium cabins, the lavatories were kept clean and tidy. On the shelves there was a hand soap and air freshener while the body lotion was placed right by the sink. I thought the positioning of the amenities was opposite, though at least they provided the basic skincare to handle the dry airplane cabin.
Returning to my seat, I reclined my seat to the angled flat position, though it does not go horizontally flat. Being an easy sleeper, I could certainly sleep in these seats as there was a leg support underneath. However, I would always opt for a full lie-flat seat if other flights are in the similar price range. For a day flight such as this, this seat was way more than enough. I even managed an hour of sleep.
Hot towels offered once again prior to landing by the crew member as the captain announced the descent. Blankets were collected and stowed in the compartments like in Economy Class. The best part of the descent was the views since throughout the flight we were over water and thus had little a view aside from the open ocean. The first sighting of Aiguilles Island indicates our proximity to Auckland.
We flew past the Great Barrier Island and this island serves to protect the natural harbour in Auckland. From there we head south flying past Waiheke Island which is a short ferry trip away from downtown Auckland.
Eventually we made the approach into Auckland International, flying over several new residential neighbourhood being built and the clear weather made it easy to spot the Rainbow’s End theme park in Manukau.
A smooth landing into Auckland was coupled with a short taxi ride to the gates meant the short trip from Fiji was over in no time. By chance, we were parked beside Air New Zealand’s flagship 777. The crew held back the rest of the passengers to allow Business Class passengers to disembark first and since we had another flight to Queenstown, made our way quickly to immigration and baggage claim. I had arranged the Air New Zealand domestic flight to be 2 and a half hours after our initial scheduled arrival and fortunately there was no major delay into our arrival. The quick and painless immigration and baggage claim meant we still had time to purchase SIM cards for local data and make our way on foot towards the domestic terminal.
All in all, Fiji Airways Business Class certainly does a good job bringing passengers to Nadi. It is also not difficult to see why they provide easy upgrades to Business Class or why their fares are very competitive. I would rate the seats to be average due to these angled flat seats being the standard Business Class seats for flights more than 6-8 hours. I do believe it does its job since not many international airlines fly to Nadi and the service here was professional as my last flight. The only downside here is the catering out of Nadi which I believe needs some work.