AUGUST 2023 ISSUE
Traveltalk Managing Editor JON UNDERWOOD was invited on the inaugural Fiji Airways service from Canberra to Nadi.
IN MY humble opinion, the best airlines are those whose staff reflect the culture and nature of the people of the country they represent.
There are few planes in the skies where the welcome onboard is more authentic than that of Fiji Airways.
It all began on my arrival in Canberra, which still has that “new airport” smell. Given my flight to Nadi was the first international departure since 2020, that’s understandable, but the facility is hugely impressive.
Flight FJ950 was the inaugural Canberra to Nadi service, which runs on Tuesdays and Fridays, with an additional Sunday service coming online on October 1.
But back to that welcome. Noel at the check in desk was absolutely charming and handled my request for a seat change with grace, humour and that trademark Fijian smile. The tone was set.
Following some official speeches, we watched as the incoming aircraft was given the traditional water cannon salute and a ceremonial ribbon was cut. With that a new chapter in Australian aviation history began.
“It’s a milestone moment that sees Canberra established as a global aviation hub,” said Jonathan Kobus, Director of Visit Canberra.
No-one seemed to mind that boarding was delayed because the incoming flight was late – it was an historic occasion and nothing was going to spoil the party. Maybe the plane was on Fiji time?
Boarding was swift and efficient and we settled in for the four-hour flight to Nadi. My window seat (37F) aboard the Boeing 737 MAX 8 afforded great views of the nation’s capital as we took off and my first trip to Fiji in more than 20 years was under way.
Even though we were down the back of the bus, it didn’t feel cramped – one of our group was heavily pregnant and they allowed her to move into the very back row of three to stretch out.
Once airborne, I perused the entertainment offerings. A small selection of recently released movies, some classics, TV shows, games and music options. More than enough to while away a few hours.
Being more than 1.8m tall, leg space is always a concern but I didn’t find this an issue and the seat itself was perfectly comfortable. It also had all the charging ports necessary in this day and age to keep everyone’s phones and laptops powered up. I didn’t check out the recline option but know that it was pretty comprehensive when the lady in front of me practically landed in my lap!
As I watched Idris Elba battle some pesky lions, it occurred to me that being at the rear of the plane would mean we’d be last to see the bar cart. Yet a quick word with one of the cabin staff and a delicious glass of Savignon Blanc was in my hand within moments.
Lunch arrived shortly afterwards, an aromatic and tasty chicken massaman curry with a starter of fresh pasta and a packet of scotch fingers for dessert. More wine, more Idris and before I knew it, we were preparing to land.
“Australia is by far our largest and most important source market for tourism,” said John Nickel, Regional General Manager, Australia & Pacific Islands, Fiji Airways.
“The new direct service from Canberra will provide customers with enhanced connectivity and convenience, offering seamless access between the stunning islands of Fiji and Australia’s capital city.
“We want the exceptional Fijian experience to begin as soon as you board our flight.”
Job done, I’d say.
Flight: FJ 950
Airline: Fiji Airways
Route: Canberra to Nadi
Date: July 21, 2023