Fiji Airways Business Class is an obvious for getting to Fiji in stle. But it’s also a great way to get to Australia and New Zealand in Business Class on an American or Alaska Airlines award.
I flew Fiji Airways Business Class to Fiji for a week with my boyfriend. We were stoked to find a pair of Business Class award tickets to visit Fiji over the July 4th weekend. July is a great time to visit Fiji as it’s the dry winter season.
Here’s the skinny: Fiji Airways Business Class (aka Tabua Class) is nice. If it’s your first time in international business class, you’ll love it. Otherwise, there’s nothing special about it that will blow you away and I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly it, but it got us to Fiji in style and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it as a way to get to Australia and New Zealand.
We were connecting from SFO on American Airlines so we had to leave the secure area of Terminal 4, walk along the sidewalk to the International Terminal at LAX and check in again for our LAX-NAN flight. Fiji Airways isn’t part of TSA PreCheck so we had to suffer the full TSA security circus.
There’s a dedicated business class check-in lane. I arrived at LAX an hour before my boyfriend due to our original flight being canceled and being rebooked on different flights. Since there was nowhere to sit and wait, I decided to check in and head to the lounge.
I asked the check-in agent to make sure we were still seated together. She would only tell me that I was still in a window seat. When I pressed for whether my BF was in the aisle seat, she totally sassed me out, giving me a tirade about passenger confidentiality and not being allowed to tell me who’s on the plane. Uh, lady, that’s not what I was asking!
Fiji Airways Lounge Access at LAX
Once you’re past the TSA screening, you’ll be inside the brand spanking new International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX. Of all the nice, glitzy lounges in the new terminal, the only one available to us was the contract lounge used by Fiji Airways and a few other airlines that aren’t in any alliances. We tried both the Star Alliance and oneworld lounges but despite having top-tier status and paid club memberships in both of those alliances, we couldn’t gain access since we weren’t flying either of those alliances that day.
Interestingly, Japan Airlines also uses this lounge for their Premium Economy passengers who aren’t otherwise eligible to access the oneworld lounge.
The Fiji Airways lounge at LAX was depressing. It was windowless, with low ceilings that made it feel like a doctor’s waiting room. The WiFi was slow. The food, which consisted of pastries, sandwiches and assorted snacks, was iffy in quality and taste. We almost wanted to be outside in the shiny terminal with buckets of natural light pouring in. But the free WiFi in the terminal was even slower and we were hungry.
I have to give credit to the lounge staff, though. They were really diligent about clearing dirty dishes and keeping the lounge clean and tidy.
There are no showers in the lounge so if you’re feeling grimy after a long connecting flight, tough luck 🙁
Compared to the lounge, the Fiji Airways Business Class Cabin was an oasis of light. The sleek, cream-colored leather seats with splashes of cyan and brown evoked a feeling of getting away. It’s something you’d only see (and expect) on a tropical airline like Fiji. I felt incredibly relaxed from the moment I stepped on the plane.
We were greeted by two bottles of Fiji water at our seats and a pair of Fiji Airways amenity kits – just in case we forgot where we were going 😉
Fiji Airways took delivery of their new long haul Airbus A330-200’s in early 2013. The Business Class cabins are in 2x2x2 configuration with a total of 24 angle-flat seats that all face forward.
Many modern day Business Class cabins have reverse herringbone or staggered configurations that are roomier and offer more privacy than Fiji’s angle-flat seats. You might say Fiji Airways is behind the times. But Fiji’s main market is vacationers and honeymooners, not solo business travelers, and their configuration makes sense for couples and families that want to to enjoy the flight together.
I recommend that couples take 2 seats by the window to enjoy the view, but the middle seats have the advantage of not having to climb over each other to get out. If the flight isn’t full, you can always pop over to a middle seat to sleep.
Whatever you choose, I recommend avoiding the bulkhead seats. Although you’ll have plenty of legroom, there’s no storage space and you’re totally exposed to to the aisles.
The seats recline about 170 degrees, so they’re almost flat but not quite. There are a number of small cubby holes and compartments for storage of small items around the seat, but as with all angle flat configurations, the seat can feel cramped after you’ve stretched out with laptops, phones and cables.
One quirk about the A330-200 is that the overhead bins are tiny. Small suitcases need to be turned and stored lengthwise. Between passengers’ bags, pillows and comforters, the bins were almost full even though the cabin wasn’t.
Power outlets didn’t work in our entire row of seats, although the USB outlets were able to charge our phones. The flight attendants couldn’t fix it and said they needed a pro to look at it. This was disappointing since we couldn’t rely on being able to use our laptops the whole way.
Business Class passengers get access to 3 lavatories – 1 at the front of the cabin, and 2 at the rear, one of which is shared with Economy class. The other rear lavatory is labeled “Business Class Only” but no one pays attention to that when they need to whiz! The Business Class lavatories have faux wood paneling and nicer amenities than Economy Class but that’s all that’s different.
The lavatories were modern and clean at first but their cleanliness deteriorated over the course of the flight. The lights in the lavatory are always on even if you don’t lock the door, so people have a tendency to forget to lock the door while in the lavatory, creating awkward situations when you open the door to an occupied lavatory. At times, it wasn’t easy to get into a lavatory, especially after meals. What’s worse, the cabin crew eats their meals in the front galley after serving passengers, blocking off access to the front lavatory.
The best thing about the amenity kit is that it says “FIJI”. It’s really basic, providing nothing more than a pair of socks, a toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs and a sleep mask. Notably missing were tissues, lip balm, hand cream, and a comb. I look at amenity kits as nice souvenirs since I have a policy of not buying physical objects when I travel.
The food service consisted of one main meal after take-off and a light meal before landing, with light snacks provided on request in-between.
The menu was skimpy, a single folded card with dishes described almost clinically. The Fijians, it seems, are masters of understatement because the food far exceeded my meager expectations at that point.
The main meal was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in a Business Class cabin. The salad dressing was tangy and flavorful. I picked the surf & turf entrée – the steak was a bit rubbery and dry but the potatoes were bursting with flavor from the dill sauce. Dessert literally took home the cake – a mouthwatering raspberry dome with cream. It was the best dessert I’ve ever had on a plane up to that point, and certainly one of the most unique and memorable.
Unlike other airlines, Fiji Airways doesn’t provide snacks in the galley between meals, although you can request fruit, cheese and crackers and chocolates from the flight attendants. About halfway during the flight they made rounds with a second bottle of Fiji water.
About 2.5 hours before landing the flight attendants came and offered a light meal. This meal wasn’t in the menu; the choices were given verbally: salmon, chicken curry or a cold beef salad. These sounded suspiciously similar to the choices for the main meal. My guess is they’re recycled mains, with the steak refrigerated, cut up and tossed into a salad. Hey, I’m all for reducing waste so why not?
I had the chicken curry this time. It was delicious, recycled or not. It came with a side of tomato bisque that was rich in flavor though a bit salty. The chicken chunks were on the big side, but other than that, the execution was perfect in my books.
In any event, it’s best to order the last meal early. People who kept sleeping and ordered meals later had fewer choices.
Many people complain about sliding down angle-flat seats when they’re trying to sleep. I actually prefer a slight angle when sleeping so this seat was fine by me. I know many people would prefer the option of fully-flat though.
Once the seat is fully reclined you’re in a fairly private cocoon, the plastic shell of the headrest providing a fair degree of privacy and shelter from the aisles and from your neighbors.
I found the pillow very awkward as it’s shaped like a log. Whoever designed it needs a lesson in ergonomics. It was nice that they provided 2 blankets – a thin one and a thicker comforter that will satisfy both warm and cold sleepers.
I was able to nap for a good two hours, which wasn’t bad considering it was a daytime flight and I’m not a napper. The cabin lights are dimmed after the first meal and replaced with pink and violet mood lighting which made the already zen-like cabin even more relaxing.
I usually don’t use the in-flight entertainment because I bring my own laptop loaded with things to watch. Glancing through the selections, there reasonable variety of movies and shows, though not as much as I’ve seen on, say, Cathay. The kid’s section was especially sparse – you’d think with all the families on-board that they’d beef it up.
Headsets were provided but they weren’t noise-canceling.
One thing I found annoying was that the in-flight entertainment wasn’t available for quite some time after take-off and was shut down about an hour before landing. Just as they tell me I can’t use my laptop anymore, they shut down the entertainment so all there is to do is stare. Other airlines offer gate-to-gate entertainment, but not Fiji. At least the big, bright screen played rotating images of Fiji islands…
Overall Service Quality
We had an attentive and motherly flight attendant who took care of us the entire flight. She was constantly sweeping through the cabin clearing dishes and trash. It felt like she worked the whole flight and hardly took any breaks. There were 4 crew members in business class but whenever I made a request of any of the others it was usually the motherly flight attendant who brought it to me.
Occasionally, the crew was a bit forgetful and I had to remind them that I asked for more sparkling water but it’s not a biggie.
I would say the overall quality of the service is somewhere between a US-airline and a top-tier Asian airline. I felt the crew was friendlier and more professional than the average US-airline. Though they weren’t as doting as some Asian cabin crews, they were always friendly and generally quite prompt with any requests.
I didn’t like that snacks were only available on request and weren’t offered openly. Although the menu had a full list of the snacks: fruit, cheese & crackers and chocolates, the crew collected all the menus after taking main course orders for the first meal. I wonder if this was to recycle the menus or discourage passengers from placing snack orders.
Timing of the Flight
FJ 813 was a daytime flight, departing Los Angeles at 2:00pm and arriving in Nadi at 8:20pm. I have mixed feelings about doing long haul flights during the day since there are so many things I could be doing on the ground, but then again it’s nice to take a break from the world in a private cocoon in the sky.
On most days of the week, Fiji Airways offers a night time LAX-NAN flight, FJ811. The daytime flight FJ813 is operated once a week on Thursdays, and it happened to be the only flight available when we booked last minute.
On the other hand, the daytime flight gives you the opportunity to watch a magnificent South Pacific sunset with a majestic cloud display in the foreground.
Business Class Award Space on Fiji Airways
Award space in Business Class on the Fiji Airways LAX-NAN route was plentiful in June and July 2014. We were able to find 2 seats in Business class both ways. This happens to be high tourist season in Fiji due to winter school holidays in Australia and New Zealand.
We paid 62,500 AAdvantage miles plus $18.00 in taxes per person each way for the outbound flight. If you’re departing Fiji, note that the Fiji government charges a bend-me-over US$104 tax to depart the country. You’ll pay the tax whether it’s a revenue or award ticket, but it’s more in-your-face with awards since taxes are all you pay.
You can also book Fiji Airways with Alaska Airlines Miles for 55,000 miles each way. It’s the same price whether you’re headed only to Fiji, or continuing onward to Australia/New Zealand. The advantage of using Alaska miles is that you get a free stopover even on one-way tickets, so you could first visit Fiji, then continue to Australia, then return to North America for just 110,000 miles. You can even stop in Hawaii on the way back.
You can search for Fiji Airways award availability on Qantas’ site, focusing on the LAX-NAN and NAN-LAX segments, then find domestic legs connecting your city to LAX on AA.com. You have to call to book Fiji Airways flights. Because of the airline’s recent rebranding as Fiji Airways, AA’s systems may still refer to it as “Air Pacific”.
Business Class availability from LAX to Fiji is wide open if you book well ahead of time, but some seats are also available at the last minute if you’re flexible.
I really enjoyed my Fiji Airways flight. I wouldn’t call it the flight experience of a lifetime but it was pretty darn good. I’d fly Fiji again in a heartbeat, whether to go back to Fiji or as a way of getting to Australia and New Zealand.