Melburnians looking to embrace a little ‘island time’ with a trip to Fiji can soon enjoy an elevated inflight experience, with Fiji Airways confirming its freshly-delivered Airbus A350-900 will be jetting into the Victorian capital up to twice a week.
Unveiled at a hangar event in Nadi on August 15, the new twin-aisle aircraft – dubbed ‘Island of Beqa’ – is the third of four A350s joining the Fiji Airways fleet. Its arrival brings the airline’s stable to 20, complementing its Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 MAX.
Executive Traveller understands the fourth A350 is set to touch down at Nadi in just 10 days time.
In addition to Melbourne, the new-gen aircraft will be making an appearance in Sydney and Auckland, as well as Hong Kong, San Francisco and Vancouver.
Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen says the Oneworld partner has worked hard to modernise its fleet since 2017, noting it’s now in a stronger position to explore new destinations thanks to new generation aircraft such as the A350.
“Fiji Airways brings in 70% of all visitors to Fiji,” explains Viljoen. “As the national airline we recognise our role is not just to be the bridge to and from the world but to support the growth of tourism, and one of the ways we can do this is by introducing new destinations with potential for high tourism opportunities.”
Speaking on the side-lines of the launch, Viljoen tells Executive Traveller that possible new routes include Dallas, Seattle, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul and Noumea, as well as Rarotonga and Port Moresby, plus several destinations in Australia.
However, he adds that while the airline is actively looking into those cities, some hurdles still need to be overcome in order to make the proposed routes a reality: namely, flying rights for ports in the United States, as well as adjustments for existing approvals in China.
“In China we only have the flying rights for Beijing. I met with the embassy a moment ago and we’re talking about possibly moving it to Shanghai.”
On the local front, Viljoen confirms to Executive Traveller that Perth is “certainly one of the destinations we’re looking at. It’s a little bit far, so for a [Boeing 737] MAX it would likely have a payload restriction, but we’re looking at all the others as well.”
Fiji Airways’ A350s feature 33 Collins Aerospace ‘Super Diamond’ seats in business class, each one enjoying direct aisle access and converting to a 2.2-metre lie-flat bed, with fresh menus rolled out seasonally.
Inflight entertainment is primed for a significant expansion in the coming weeks, with the airline adding content from Disney and HBO, as well as guided meditation, breathwork exercises and music.
Also on the entertainment front, travellers in business class will now benefit from free full WiFi access for the duration of the flight, while those seated economy passengers receive 15 minutes. Previously, all passengers were limited to 15 minutes of free messaging, with full browsing access for a fee.
Fiji’s popularity has surged in recent years, both as a destination and stopover to Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with Viljoen revealing bookings from Australia are up 41% per cent on pre-Covid levels, while New Zealand is up 47% and the United States 22%.