Flying from Auckland to Suva on Fiji Airways

Juliette Sivertsen flies Auckland to Suva on Fiji Airways’ FJ430.

The plane:

Boeing 737-700.

Class: Economy.

Price: From $260.

Flight time: Just under three hours. We had a 15-minute delay, but made up for it on the flight.

My seat: I was in 27D.

Fellow passengers: I should have been wearing my Bula shirt. Most tourists fly direct to Nadi, so my flight to Suva was mostly businesspeople and Fijian locals rather than holidaymakers.

How full: Initially I thought I’d have a row to myself as there didn’t seem to be many in the departure lounge. But it was a small plane and it turned out there wasn’t a spare seat.

Being an early Monday morning flight, most were heading to Suva for the working week.

Entertainment: The Boeing 737-700 is the smallest of the Fiji Airways fleet and one of the oldest. There’s no personal entertainment device or TV screens on the back of the seat, just the generic screen that unfolds from the overhead cabin. Apart from the safety briefings, it spent most of the flight folded up before a brief stint showing a forgettable kids’ movie — but given everyone can see the screens, it’s no surprise they opted for something family friendly.

The service: The Fijian flight attendants always have a wonderful grace about them, full of smiles and are eager to please. But it was a good hour into the flight before food or drink was served, which, for a morning flight requiring a 4am check-in, was bordering on a little too long to wait.

Food and drink: Breakfast was standard in-flight fare of a spoon of baked beans, one little sausage and an egg frittata, served with a bran muffin and apricot yoghurt with the usual selection of juices, coffee and tea. There was no second choice.

The toilets: Two, at the back of the plane, so people were hovering in a queue down the aisle for most of the flight. Plane toilets come with a form of mass hysteria. If they’re in use, suddenly everyone panics they’re not going to get a chance to relieve themselves during the flight.

Luggage: 23kg. No dramas – tropical islands don’t tend to require a suitcase of heavy jackets. A sign on the counter reminded passengers to leave behind their weedeaters and chainsaws. I mentioned the sign to the Fiji Airways attendant. She laughed. “You wouldn’t believe what people try to bring on the plane.”

The airport experience: It’s nice to see the international terminal at Auckland Airport slowly finishing. Our flight departed from Gate 18, the furthest from the rest of the airport. It takes a good 15 minutes to walk there. Nausori Airport at Suva is a small, basic island style airport — not targeted at tourists. Forget hitting up Duty Free unless you just want alcohol. Wear light layers as there’s no air conditioning as you wait for Customs.

The bottom line: Fiji Airways offers a reasonably solid service, but it will be nicer when the Boeing 737s are upgraded, starting from this year.

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