Fiji Airways Says ‘We’d Rather Fly With Empty Business Class Seats than Allow You to Have the Seats You Paid For’

The attractive seating in Fiji Airways' new A330 business class cabin.
The attractive seating in Fiji Airways’ new A330 business class cabin.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when flying Fiji Airways from Auckland in New Zealand to their home airport of Nadi in Fiji and then on to Los Angeles.

Although I’ve been to Fiji a number of times, I’d only flown the airline once before, back when it was known as Air Pacific and largely managed by its 49% shareholder, Qantas.

For many years Qantas did all they could to prevent it from becoming another of the many ‘island airlines’ that spring up and subsequently fail.  But in 2012, Fiji’s troubled government (coups, constitutions and crises galore) decided it would re-nationalize the airline, taking Qantas’ shareholding, and renaming itself more jingoistically as Fiji Airways.  February this year also saw the resignation of the airline’s American born CEO (a replacement was announced in July – the current CEO of Jazeera Airlines).

On the positive side, the two flights were to be on the first of the airline’s new A330-200s.  Tiny Fiji Airways will end this year having retired/replaced its 747s with A330s, and a total fleet of three A330s and four 737s.

Things got off to a bad start in Auckland.  I checked in for the flight and went to ‘their’ lounge (actually the lovely Qantas lounge), and was told that they’d announce when we should go to board the plane.  Some lounges announce boarding calls, others don’t; with Auckland being a lounge that does announce boarding.

When the expected time for boarding had come and gone with no announcement, I went to the desk and asked if the flight was running late.  The receptionist checked the computer, looked surprised and said ‘It is already boarding, but they never called to tell us to ask business class passengers to make their way to the plane’.  So I went off to the plane on my own initiative.

While walking through the terminal, an announcement blared through the entire international terminal ‘Would the last five passengers on FJ 410 to Nadi please hurry to board the plane.  Everyone else has boarded and you are delaying the flight’s departure.’

I got to the gate and was given stern looks by the employees.  I pointed out that in fact I was early rather than late, because they’d never actually called boarding in their lounge.  The check-in guy unapologetically said ‘Oh yes, I forgot to do that’.  But apparently it remained my fault that I was late, and I had to do the ‘walk of shame’ onto the plane and have other passengers and crew members glaring at me.  As for holding up the flight’s departure, the plane didn’t actually close its doors or push-back for at least another 15 minutes.

Hardly a welcoming introduction to Fiji Airways, and I noticed with dry mirth the exhortation on the plane to enjoy ‘Fiji time’ – this being the same concept as the more generic expression of ‘island time’ the world over – a more lackadaisical approach to time and schedules.  But as the two flights unfolded, it became clear that Fiji time was designed only to encourage the airline’s staff to do things on their own independent whim and fancy, not as a suggestion that passengers too could relax and enjoy life on their own terms.

The business class cabin on the almost brand-new A330 was very attractive, in an ivory/white layout, and with modern type ‘cocoon’ seats that would extend to a flat but sloped semi-bed.  The problem with sloped rather than true horizontal seat/beds is that you tend to slip down the slope during any attempt at sleeping, and regularly have to uncomfortably push yourself back up again.

Lovely big 15.4″ video monitors were handicapped by inexplicably not having the moving map flight detail display working (perhaps such accurate/exact things are anathema to the fullest expression of ‘Fiji time’), and the movie selection was limited to only 12 titles, including ‘popular Hindi favorites’ – a nod to the 37.5% of the Fijian population of Indian descent, further restricting the number of movies of potential interest to me.   (From the mid 1940s until the late 1990s, there were more Indians than native Fijians in the country, but after the country’s series of coups, designed to give more favorable treatment to native Fijians and less favorable treatment to others and in particular to the industrious Indians who ended up controlling much of the country’s commerce, many Indians have left Fiji, while the population of native Fijians – and other Pacific islanders – has increased at a prodigious rate).

The flight to Nadi was uneventful, and the business class cabin only about half-full, although coach class seemed much more filled with passengers.  It was interesting to note (and tiresome) that the slightest hint of imperceptible turbulence would see the ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign activated – the pilots were even more anxious about such things than American pilots, and I’d always thought US pilots to be the biggest ‘nervous nellies’ of any country in the world.

As is so often the case, we had to ‘prepare the cabin for landing’ at a time ridiculously prior to the actual landing of the plane.  Food was meager and ordinary, and rather than being able to keep the menu (such as it was) the flight attendants were very careful to retrieve them from us (indeed, my daughter and I had to share a single menu), presumably for re-use on the next flight.

The real problems – and the quote above – were to be in Nadi and on the flight on to Los Angeles.

We were flying on frequent flier tickets, issued by Alaska Airlines.  At the time of making the booking, our business class award ticket saw us downgraded to coach class for the long (10 hour) flight from Nadi to Los Angeles, although happily we did get ‘up front’ for the shorter flights AKL-NAN (3 hours) and the final flight from LAX up to Seattle.  There was no adjustment to the mileage ‘cost’ of the ticket to reflect that two-thirds of the travel was actually in coach class, but Alaska Airlines assured me that if seats opened up, I would be eligible to upgrade to the business class seats.

The good news upon arrival in Nadi was that the flight on to Los Angeles had opened up and now had 8 unallocated business class seats in the 24 seat business class cabin.  So, only a few hours prior to departure, at which point the airline had presumably done any/all upgrading that it might do, and there were still 8 empty seats in business class.  Wonderful news.  I of course asked for our coach class seats to accordingly be swapped for business class seats.

The Fiji Airways staff seemed astonished at this suggestion.  Oh, no, ‘sir’, the woman said (imagine the tone of sarcasm and artificial politeness with which this honorific was pronounced).  You have a coach class seat.  You can buy an upgrade to business class, but you can’t expect us to upgrade you for free.

I explained (again) that although we were indeed in coach class seating, our ticket was a business class ticket and we were entitled to business class seating.  We had paid (albeit in miles) for business class, and they had fully one third of their cabin empty.  We weren’t asking for anything for free, we were simply asking for the business class seats that we were entitled to.

The woman then decided to adopt the ‘It’s not my department’ approach.  ‘You’re traveling on a ticket that wasn’t issued by us.  Only the travel agency that issued your ticket can change it.  You’ll have to speak to them.’  Needless to say, until this point, every person I’d spoken to previously at Fiji Airways had all agreed that I had an upgradeable ticket, but all had said that the ticket could only be upgraded at the airport in Nadi if space was available – a reasonable statement to make that I’d not thought to query any further each time it was made.  So here I was, at the airport, with available space, but now I was being told that the ticket could only be changed by someone else.

I explained that the ‘travel agency’ was in fact Alaska Airlines, and they didn’t have a ticket office in Nadi, Fiji, etc etc.  This got a lot of statements where the woman kept saying ‘… we can’t …’ whereas what she should have been saying was ‘I won’t‘.

It was at this point that she uttered the amazing line that the airline would rather fly with empty business class seats than allow us access to them.

I asked if there was anyone else I could speak to.  The answer was no, that she (a desk agent in their business class lounge) was the only person, who did ‘everything’ and, well, she’d already indicated her flat-out refusal to actually do anything at all.

I ran through various job titles/positions of other people who might be able to assist, all of which it appeared did not exist at Fiji Airways, until finally coming across one (route manager) that did exist, but that person was at a conference in Hong Kong.  Okay, so next I asked if I could speak to the Airport Duty Manager, and the woman told me instantly that the Airport Duty Manager was in a meeting, and it was likely to be a long meeting and she didn’t know when she would be free.

And if you believe the truth of that claim, dear reader, please allow me to sell you some prime ocean-front property in Arizona.

I suggested I check back in half an hour, and the woman enthusiastically agreed that I should do so.

During the intervening time I phoned through to Alaska Airlines in the US, who not unreasonably told me that they couldn’t do anything, it was up to the airline at this point because as far as they could see from their computer, the flight was full; besides which they were about to close for the night.

When I went back to resume the discussion, the woman had disappeared.  Her shift had ended.  Fancy that.

Her replacement did a good job of sounding more sympathetic, and took our boarding passes and said she’d see what she could do.  That was much better than refusing to look at the paperwork and saying that nothing could be done, so I waited in a fairly optimistic frame of mind.

Twenty minutes later she returned with them, said she’d spoken to the Airport Duty Manager, who had in turn spoken to their ticket office, and they were all unanimously in agreement that there was nothing they could (would) do at all.

Now, as you almost certainly know, any of these people could have made a couple of entries into their computer and reissued us with business class boarding passes in less time than it takes to read this single sentence.  But I was told that there was ‘nothing they could do’.

I asked if I could speak directly to the Airport Manager.  I was told she refused to talk to me.

Out of options, and not wanting to make a scene that could see me stranded in Fiji, I had no choice but to give up.

Just to clarify, please understand that I wasn’t asking for a free upgrade.  We’d already paid the business award price for the travel.  And I was happy to accept that my paid-for business class travel would be given the lowest priority.  I wasn’t suggesting my mileage award tickets should be given precedence over people who were paying money for their business class tickets, and I never got into a discussion about the relative merits of giving courtesy upgrades to frequent fliers vs allowing my award travel ticket to get me into business class.  As best I could tell, anyone and everyone else who could be upgraded had already been upgraded, and just like the flight from Auckland to Nadi with a half empty business class cabin, the flight on to Los Angeles would also have one-third of its seats empty, making the airline’s refusal to seat us in otherwise empty seats in the cabin we’d bought award travel for all the more disappointing.

So, Fiji Airways did indeed fly to Los Angeles, presumably with eight empty business class seats, while leaving my daughter and me in coach, where we got to experience the pleasures of their razor-thin seat pitch (31″) and ‘Fiji Time’ again.

Fiji Time included being woken for breakfast almost three hours before arriving into Los Angeles – right at the time where I’d finally managed to fitfully get to sleep, of course.  There was no reason or need to serve breakfast that early, other than perhaps convenience for the flight crew.

Fiji Time also featured the gratuitous insult of being required to get our seatbacks upright and tray tables stowed a full 40 minutes prior to our landing, and an almost 50 minute wait for our bags to appear at baggage claim (did I mention they had ‘Priority’ tags on them – I hate to think how long all the other people still waiting around the conveyor belt had to wait for theirs!).

The sensitivity of the pilots to turbulence was even more extreme on this flight.  Almost imperceptible tremors of turbulence not only saw the seat belt sign light up, but the flight attendants would be told to take their seats, too – something that alarmed me the first time it happened, because usually that means severe extended turbulence is about to occur, but by the third or fourth time they were sent to their seats with no turbulence following, it became more a thing of humor than of alarm.

Fiji tries to portray itself as a tropical dreamland populated by warm and friendly people.  But if the Fijian nationals employed by its state airline are any indication, that is absolutely not the case.  What sort of humanity-hating ogre forces a passenger traveling on a business class ticket to fly in coach class when there are business class seats empty and available?

For that matter, how foolish is any airline that fails to fill its premium cabins on every flight?  There’s no greater gift (and no cheaper cost to the airline) than to upgrade anyone, ‘deserving’ or not, to business or first class.  Sensible airlines use the customer-loyalty enhancing value of their premium cabins to full effect, stupid ones don’t.

I’ve no doubt that Fiji Airways is a great airline for their employees, friends and family, and the otherwise aloof flight crew did appear to be genuinely friendly to passengers they recognized and knew (the total population of Fiji is barely 800,000, and those who travel are a small percentage of that tiny number).  For others who are willing to accept the concept of ‘Fiji time’ and how it can interfere with the beginning, middle and end of your travels, it is perhaps an okay choice, and if for some regrettable reason you actually need to travel to this troubled country, be warned there’s every chance that your Qantas, American Airlines or even Air New Zealand flight number might be a code-share and actually subject you to flying on Fiji Airways.

For the rest of us (other than Oprah Winfrey who apparently likes Fiji even more than she dislikes Switzerland), both the airline – and its home country – are perhaps best avoided.

73 thoughts on “Fiji Airways Says ‘We’d Rather Fly With Empty Business Class Seats than Allow You to Have the Seats You Paid For’”

  1. This has always been the way with Fiji. Truth is, I’ve had good visits to Fiji, but customer service tends to be largely Soviet in its nature. Given changes more recently in Fiji, as exhibited by your Fiji Airways experience, I’ll be routing my South Pacific travels elsewhere.

    For what it’s worth, before my first trip to Fiji (in 1988), I’d thought that Tahiti was bad. I was wrong. In fact, the only island nation I’ve been in the South Pacific that seemed genuinely warm and inviting was Rarotonga.

  2. It’s simple: a lack of competition. The airlines know that if you want to fly from x to y you will probably have to fly with them. So they can do anything they want to you and you will still have to fly with them. And you will pay virtually any price and go without services too. And of course if you do find an alternative they will probably impose the same penalties. The only real alternatives are to stay at home (or drive if you can).

  3. GOOD TO GET SOMESERIOUS INFO. Lets hope Fiji Airways will take note and change their ways, or will they go out of business

  4. Thank you for the warning, if offered a chance to fly Fiji, I will instruct my travel agent to find another airline.

  5. Thanks for the heads up. We’ve had more than one good flight on Air Pacific rt HNL/NAN….but this new regime sound as tho’ they don’t care about the passengers.

  6. you just saved me from booking on them for much sought after vacation. I’ll save my cash and points and spend them with an airline that appreciates it’s income source.

  7. This story is exactly why when I see a segment being downgraded from business to coach that I book another airline. I ran into this when planning an LAX-AKL and I just had no desire to spend miles/dollars on airline X for business class for the short haul segments just to get stuck in coach for the long haul.

  8. I am not surprised. My wife and I were booked e-tickets BUD-IST-JNB on FF tickets and we had to fight with the ground staff in BUD because they insisted we have PAPER tickets. The only thing that saved us was (1) I had a print-out of our Iten. (2) My wife is Hungarian and could communicate better. Ironically, we got the same line…I.E. “You need to call your Travel Agent” (at that time, Continental Airlines). I had the same response, these tickets were issued by them and there is no way to contact them at this time. Fortunately, we were granted passage at the last moment and had to rush to the gate which was manned by the same agents we had to fight with in the office!

  9. I forgot to mention, this was on Turkish Airlines, and yes, they have some of the best service in the world in Business Class (after we finally got on).

  10. Well David ,what an experience but thanks for the info ,as my wife and I were seriously thinking of going there ,but this changed it !! Thanks again and Happy Trails !!!

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  12. A doubting Thomas

    Did you ever contact Alaska Air about tthis? They could perhaps put some miles back in your account – the mistake here was accepting a coach flight to begin with . . . if they can’t you inventory fly someone else. . .

    1. Hi, Thomas

      As I mention in the article, I did much better than contact Alaska Airlines at some subsequent time. I called them from Fiji, realtime, and asked them to help.

      Their response, and it is a fair one, was – well, read the article….. 🙂

      There’s nothing AS can do for me now.

  13. My daughter (now a NZ resident) is planning her wedding in Fiji in Sept. 2014.

    I have traveled from PDX to NZ and NZ/Fiji on Air New Zealand, all excellent experiences, and once on Qantas, which was inferior but not horrible.

    My queries into Fiji Air for lower fares seems to be consistently awful, and I will check with the great folks at ANZ about how and when to get the best fare with them!

    Thanks, everyone –

  14. You have heard the expression, food to die for. This airline has a variation on that theme, food to die from !

    Customer Services has a section for dealing with complaints. The problem is, they do not or perhaps are not capable of dealing with complaints. Their solution is that if the complaint cannot be solved with empty gestures and actually requires some affirmative action, they simply will not respond.

    If they were not code sharing with Qantas, no way would I be using them.
    Traveling from Oz or NZ to Fiji, try ANZ or Virgin. ANZ being the pick of them.

  15. The airline was not re-nationalized by the government, Qantas still has its 45% stake and the American who ‘resigned’ actually left as a result of his contract expiring and his turn-around plan for the airline complete. It was Fiji Airways before it was Air Pacific… Sorry to hear what happened to you on your travels with Fiji Airways and your impression of the airline, the country and its people. Fiji Airways is recovering from a down-sizing and loss making past few years, but they really do try and punch well above their weight for an airline of their size.

    1. Hi James

      Thanks for adding your thoughts. It is good to get a Fiji Airways apologist here, because the comments have been running rather one-sided.

      But, the thing is, your comments are rather oblique and don’t address the simple situation that provoked this article – the airline chose to fly empty business class seats to Los Angeles rather than put my daughter and I, with our business class tickets, in the seats we surely were entitled to.

      As for the specifics of the Qantas shareholding, I linked to my source in the article, and as for the ‘did he jump or was he pushed’ aspect of the former CEO, I guess we can at least agree that, for whatever reason, his contract wasn’t renewed.

      It would also be the first time in history I’ve ever seen an airline complete a turn-around plan. It seems to me that airlines the world over are never more than a few load percentage points away from disaster, and the airline that complacently claims to have completed a turn-around is one that is turning back to the ‘dark side’. 🙂

      1. Oh no, don’t get me wrong… how you were treated was absolutely appalling and should not happen anywhere, let alone an airline that is struggling to re-vamp its image and improve customer experiences. A lot of things went wrong and it really impedes Fiji Airways in building customer loyalty and even attaining customer satisfaction. Something not lost on the current management… rest assured that your views on the matter are not in vain as they have just begun a massive review of their customer service both on the ground and on board.

        As for the other comments (which may be irrelevant but…) I simply wanted to point out some of the inaccuracies and the implications that were made in your article… Qantas still holds its shares in the airline and that was a particularly dramatic episode between Qantas and Air Pacific over Qantas competing directly with an airline they partly own (Jetstar vs. Fiji Airways/Air Pacific) as well as Qantas wanting to divest.. however, since then, nothing more has happened and Fiji Airways new CEO is actually in talks with Alan Joyce on formulating a stronger partnership between Qantas and Fiji Airways. Hopefully this means we get some of Qantas’ customer service to rub off on the Fiji Airways staff. As for the former CEO, he left to take up a lucrative position with Silver Airways and left on good terms with Fiji Airways, even playing a part in the selection committee for the new CEO.

        The turn-around I referred to was the re-branding and bringing the airline back to profitability. Indeed, more has to be done, as is obvious from the affair that provoked your article.

  16. When you booked the ticket with AS miles, it looks like only AKL-NAN had business, NAN-LAX didn’t. That’s your issued ticket. Just because they have available business seat from NAN-LAX doesn’t mean you are entitled to those seats.
    There’s a reason award bucket are different from revenue bucket.

    If you have mixed cabin tickets on JAL/CX, and demand you fly up front when your boarding pass show Y, they will laugh in your face.

    I don’t see what Fiji Airways did wrong here. You agreed to fly Y from NAN-LAX when you ticketed. All airlines will do the same.

    1. Hi, Ken

      Are you deliberately misunderstanding my article and subsequent comments.

      My ticket was a business class ticket. I paid (in miles) the business class fare. It was not a coach class ticket.

      You’re erecting straw men here while avoiding the ultimate issue. Why did Fiji Airlines fly with empty business class seats on that flight when I and my daughter were in the back with business class tickets?

      That is the question you’re avoiding answering.

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  18. I’m so guttered I found this, I have a flight AKL to LAX via Nandi booked in two weeks time. Thought I’d check out a review out of curiosity. Being a student you take the best deal at the time and my agent assured me these guys had brand new economy cabins and I really shouldn’t notice a difference between these guys and my last trip with Virgin Australia.

    Some lessons you learn the hard way I guess. Bugger.

    1. To be fair to Fiji Airways, you’ll have a reasonably decent coach class experience flying them, and their cabins are indeed new. It is not my intention to advocate that you should never book/buy/travel coach class with them.

    1. So there I was in Nadi, Fiji, and the Alaska Airline frequent flier desk was closing, and in any event, thousands of miles away.

      Just exactly how could I get them to reissue the ticket?

  19. I am also an Alaska Airline MileagePlan member. The issue you experienced is the way Alaska and their partner airlines have contracted with each other. I have never been able to upgrade to the next class of service directly through the airline even if I paid (with miles) for the higher class of service. It does suck that you pay full-board but may have one or more segments in a lower class of service. You have to go through the Alaska Partner Desk to make changes on award tickets.

    I know certain airlines are better than others about opening up inventory in their higher classes of service as flight time approaches. I do think it is counterproductive not to “upgrade” a passenger when it is clear the rest of the itinerary is in a higher class of service. But these are the rules Alaska has put forth.

    When I travel on an Alaska award ticket, I make sure I take the phone numbers for the Partner Desk for the countries I will be traveling in or transiting in. I also try to make sure I have a WiFi connection to use Skype or other VOIP service to call the Partner Desk. Unfortunately, even after calling the Partner Desk, if the partner airline has not released the available seats in the higher class of service, Alaska can do NOTHING to change this.

    I think the the lack of customer service and not providing meaningful customer service is detrimental to the longevity and health of any business. By providing great customer service would provide them with a potential lifelong customer as well as referrals to their airline with this goodwill gesture (especially since you had “paid” for a Business class ticket). For any airline to create such an adversarial relationship is just plain stupid.

  20. I reside in Los Angeles and have been flying to and fro for business. I am a tabua member and at the time of signing as a member, I was told that if any business seats are available , than I would be upgraded. I have probably flown 18 plus flightsand only once have I been upgraded, besides earning the 9th flight free upgrade..I can also tell you that the staff at the airport are rude…to the extent of once I was standing in tabua club members line to check in… and this idiot walked up to me and informed me to please make my way to the ecomony class check in line. I told that idiot that I was a tabua member, and she demanded my membership card. What the hell… I was so embarrassed. !,, they think we are uneducated or wat?. Staff at airport needs some customer service training. Big time!

  21. Fiji airways needs serious customer service training. I believe they have the monopoly with these routes.
    I am sure they scratch their heads at bad reviews. They never respond or at the very least defend themselves. I fly in november 2014 and the poor reviews are stifling! Oh why did I not review first then schedule?! Cancelation fees are high too……sheesh

    1. I have to say their customer service is non-existence. I flew them in May 2013. We had just finished a two week medical mission. On the flight back from Nadi to Lax, a passenger on the plane had a medical emergency that required real medical attention. We were three (3) hours into the ten (10) hour flight. Two doctors from our mission sat with this passenger for the rest of the flight. I spoke to the captain about potentially diverting the flight to Hawaii for this potentially deadly medical problem. The patient decided he would risk dying in-flight since he wanted to get home to LA to see his family.

      The in-flight staff thanked us with extra snacks. At the end of the flight, the staff asked us to provide the doctors’ name, address, medical license, etc. Needless to say, no one from the company ever officially thanked us. You would think the captain would have said something before we deplaned, or the company would have sent us a thank you letter for the seven (7) hours of medical care that required an IV and oxygen. Needless to say, if they can’t even send a simple thank you letter in this situation, it’s pretty obvious basic customer service is the furthest thing from their minds.

      I will definitely look to other airlines for my future flights since they can’t even provide basic courteous customer service.

      1. HI KevSF,
        Even if you do choose another airline, like Qantas or Air New Zealand, you will be sitting in that darn cramped up Fiji airways…we have no choice !

  22. Hi Kev,
    THANK YOU for highlighting the absolute need for customer service..I have traveled a number of times.with Fiji’s Airline (because I had no other choice !!!)..and the same tune is played…..unfortunately…. EVERYWHERE…be it a government office,a hospital or a shop.Your observation is total truth. Customer Service in Fiji is not not for every human being.It is meant only for the Lords and the “Knowns”.
    Fiji needs to know that the every customer is just as important….regardless.,for it is because of the customer, the wheel of the income and the economy turns.
    In simple terms, treat everyone with basic human dignity.Fiji will then flourish !!

  23. Fiji air, worst experience with airlines we arrived 51 minutes prior to the departure time, after a rush across the terminal. The staff gave no consideration but ignored us, saying we could go on standby for tomorrow. Little did we know what that meant.

    Due to the airline having a policy of overbooking the flights, being on standby had no value, as each day more and more people are on this list. (one day by 26 people, the next day 40 people) Making getting a return flight almost impossible. We are stuck at the airport with the only option.

    The staff are unconcerned and offered no suggestions other than pay 4 times the original price to fly business class, which is not an options for us.

    If you are considering flying to Fiji which is an amazing place Fiji Airlines would be a massive mistake to fly with.

  24. I just booked two business class tickets via AA, plus one paid ticket on Fiji Airlines. After reading your article (well written and documented, by the way) I will cancel it.

    Are we down to Qantas, Cathay, plus the middle eastern airlines now for reasonable customer service now?

    How sad, if so.

  25. Unfortunately, the experiences of numerous other passengers are even worse than Kev experienced. Just glance at the special face book page called “Fiji Airways Always Bad Service” and the reviews posted on airline and other airline rating pages.

    If you read these reviews, you will truly get how horrible their customer service actually is.

    My firm is out about $2000 for various errors made by FA reservations in the last 3 months. Customer service and corporate affairs were both contacted numerous times but neither have bothered to reply other than “we are investigating” for more than 2 months.

    From the very large number of complaints posted, this is the same experience with most other customers who need to contact customer service.

    Truly sad that the flag ship airline for a service oriented country that depends on tourism does not seem to understand the need to treat customers with respect and courtesy in order to keep our business.

    We have cancelled all plans for business flights with FA and will be routing through NZ or AUS for travel to North America with alternate carriers. Locally, all staff have been instructed to use Northern Airways or to take the ferry or bus service.

  26. Surprised at your comments. Whilst seat pitch was a pain, as was the fact they didn’t ask passengers to pull seats forward for meal times. Service and overall customer experience was far better than I ever experienced with any North American Airline- as for Alaska, I will never ever fly that monstrosity of an airline ever again.

  27. Flew Fiji Airways March ’15. When trying to change seats discovered plane full. An hour before boarding passengers informed 33 bags had been removed from the flight due to weight issues. Never heard of this in all my years of flying. Boarded plane to discover 25 seats all empty!! One of those 33 cases was mine, arrived in Honolulu with no thongs, swimmers, toiletries, shaver etc., promises of case arriving next day never materialised and I have heard the compensation is just $50.00. So obviously the freight was more valuable than the passenger to this airline. I will never fly Fii Air again. In fact I will never fly Qantas either as they charged me $500 for my golf clubs from Sydney to Fiji. Goodbye and good ridence to both.

    1. Hi, Barry

      Some flights do have weight restrictions on them when the plane is operating at close to its maximum range. Normally a number of seats are blocked off and unsold, it is unusual, with a large wide-body plane like an A330, to have a last minute unload of 33 bags as well.

      I’d probably call BS on that excuse. I think they just forgot to load one of the bag containers, or maybe decided to substitute higher paying freight for the bags.

      As for your compensation, you can probably claim your reasonable and actual costs associated with the delay of the bag’s arrival.

  28. john weatherell

    I fly LA to Tarawa on Fiji. It is the only way to get there. And they know it . Full flights always. Poor food, indifferent service and uncomfortable seating.. On the return trip they will not let you bring water on board even if is purchased in a secure area. The serve water in 4oz cups. Good luck getting a flight attendent around min night. Flew business once. The ran out of some items on the menu. ALL in all Fiji is poorly run, but they are the only game around. I travel to Tarawa to do volunteer work. Love the work hate the flight!

  29. I was due to fly from LAX to NAN. The incoming flight was damaged by a truck before departure from Nadi. My flight was delayed until the next morning. The Fiji Airways staff in Los Angeles could not have been more helpful. I was allowed to check my bag so I didn’t have to haul it around, given a nice room for the night at the Crowne Plaza and a $30 food voucher. The flight left the next morning with full apologies from the crew even though the accident and delay were beyond the airlines control.
    As Fiji Airways is a small airline losing one of their 3 long haul planes meant that my return trip was also affected. This time I was accommodated at a nice hotel near Nadi airport again with a meal voucher. My late arrival at LAX meant I missed my connection to San Diego. Again I was going to have to wait for a flight the next morning and again Fiji Airways provided me with another room at the Crowne Plaza and yet another food voucher.
    I suggest no airline could have done more.
    It is a surprise to me that people base their opinions on one experience. I have flown from the US to Fiji on 6 different occasions and on to Sydney 3 times with FA and Air Pacific before. The staff have always been friendly and the flights as good as any of my dozens of trips to Europe and around the US.
    Give them a try, there are always two sides to the argument.

    1. You’re lucky to have had a good experience with Fiji Airways, although, to put ‘good experience’ in context, you actually had massive delays to both your outbound and your return flight.

      Call me overly critical if you wish, but having both flights massively delayed doesn’t qualify as good in my book, free hotel room or not. And being a very small airline, as you point out yourself, that does indeed mean that a problem with one of their three planes sees 33% of their fleet off-line.

      Frankly, I see your experience as another reason to avoid Fiji Airways, not as a reason to rush back!

      1. Your reaction to a review of Fiji Airways that runs counter to your own appears mean spitrited at best. I shall be flying with Fiji Airways again later this year and am looking forward to it.
        I expect my 7th trip to Fiji to be as pleasant as the previous 6 and anticipate the usual good service.

  30. Wow! Just when I was looking at a week on Beqa island. Was going first class. Sounds like they do t know what first class is. I’ll be looking at other pacific islands with better air service and maybe some competiton.really disappointing to hear any airline treated anyone that way. Sounds like they’ll have to live with it for sometime

  31. Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience. I can well imagine the frustration of having used ff miles for a business ticket and then not being able to get that seating for the longest leg of the trip. Letting the seats go out empty rather than provide you with that upgrade, that you had paid the miles for, is really maddening. I was just checking airline reviews as I’m getting ready to book some flights and even though my situation is different – just a straight coach ticket purchase – this has made me rethink using Fiji Airways.

  32. Great article, me a former Fiji citizen, totally agree with you. Fiji Airways has got no pride, the staff are rude and just there to collect a pay cheque. I have changed from Fiji Airways to Virgin, even Qantas and Jetstar code share with Fiji Bully Airways.

  33. I am very concerned about our upcoming trip to FIji next May. There is no other choice for us coming from LAX! I was not able to choose our seats online. A reply to Fiji Airways said I could be assigned seats for free then showed a chart for the seat fees based on the location and whether they were business premium or economy. I am waiting for an answer. Do we have to pay for a particular sear in economy? Thanks!

  34. wow. will pay the extra $1000 (times 3 seats) to fly Qantas rather than Fiji to Sydney. Glad I checked reviews before purchsing tickets. Glad there is an option to read reviws.

  35. Thanks for the info. Was thinking of going to Fiji or other islands in the area but after reading this and the comments I recall that other areas nearer to my area (Singapore) have easier flights with more reputable airlines with decent service. Fiji air is starting a direct flight in April. However it would be a white elephant with such a reputation. I would prefer to holiday anywhere else in Malaysia or Indonesia what with better airlines and culture, arguably.

  36. Fiji time can also mean not factoring the change from daylight savings to regular hours. I bought my — business class — ticket with them from Sydney to LA, stopping in Nadi — with cash, not miles — six months before departure. When the hours changed, they moved the departure time to one hour earlier but did not re-issue a ticket with the new time, nor did they contact me in any way. When I arrived at the airport, I was told that check-in “closed” 90 minutes before each flight and the flight was leaving an hour earlier and I was too late to be checked in and I was denied boarding or a refund because it was all “my fault”. The only option was to buy a new ticket. Which I did, but on a different airline.

  37. I see that often when booking, for example, with Alaska air miles on American airlines. There are many flight options posted at the time of flight selection, and I am able to choose before actually allocating my miles and paying a fee. If there is that little symbol of an airline seat, it means that it is a mixed cabin and at least one leg is coach. I avoid that look for another; if not another day. Once the business/first class ticked is obtained, I print it and call the airline to confirm my seat assignment. That too is printed out and maintained as proof. I am baffled that an airline would take away that which was already provided, unless it was the case of a mixed cabin flight all along.

  38. Wow,
    Was considering a stop over in Fiji with my family on the way to Australia. Not encouraged by these comments at all. I will be looking at another location on my way.

  39. Pingback: These airlines let you fly in first class from just $500 | SquareZebras

  40. There there, that’s imperialists talk now I have flown Fiji Airways more than you have and well I have never had any of the experiences you mentioned, and mind you I am talking about the Nadi – Los Angeles flight.

    I will tell you why you did not get an upgrade for NAN-LAX, your Alaska Air miles may have been just enough to give you an upgrade on Business Class for shorter flights like NAN-AKL but NAN-LAX is a long flight.

    Yes even if Fiji Airways doesn’t sell any business class seats they will still make a profitable run because every seat in Economy class is always full.

    Your article is an upfront stupid rant, try flying with American Airlines or British Airways, I remember a friend of mine flew from London to Barbados for a conference and her baggage arrived at the end of her week there.

    1. Thanks Avneel,
      Just to add up to what you said, it seems like David is entitled and used to getting his way. And when that does not happen we see a big outcry and a grudge lasting long time.
      Airlines have specific allotment on award tickets. I am sure somewhere on the ticket or the fine print it was stated that the segment between NAN and LAX it was a seat in coach. International Business class seats are the bread and butter of the airlines and they will not just give them away. It is simple as that. Everything else is drama. If you want to fly upfront – buy the ticket. People should not change their plans because someone did not get an upgrade on Alaska air miles flying with Fiji Airways. As far as the customer service treatment at the airport, it should have been better.
      Complaining about having to put seatbelt on is flat out ignorant. Turbulence can happen at anytime during flight and it is best to keep your seatbelt on while seated and listen to the crew instructions.

      Have a nice day.

    2. Dear Avneel, I see that you are one of the guys who labor in crediting 10 points out of 10 to Fiji Airways at SkyTrax etc. for each flown leg. Well, otherwise FA would be a one-star airline…

      David’s article is a rather accurate and well-articulated description of FA services on a regular day. I have seen worse, repeatedly.

      Overall, the state of FA and the forces behind it poison the airline services not only in Fiji, but regionally, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands being two prime casualties of Fiji bullying and inepititude. Fortunately, Virgin is there.

  41. Fiji’s quote about “Soaring with Pride” on Twitter would be more apt if they focused more attention on their inflight service and baggage handling. This is not the first time I have flown Fiji Airways, but certainly the first time I had a horrible experience, although from speaking with other family members, it seems that it’s an issue that’s quite prevalent specially with regards to the meal service in the flight as well as procuring baggage at final destinations.

    I had a wonderful three week vacation in Sydney Australia with my husband and parents followed by a week in Fiji before flying back home to US. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Fiji, we all were severely disappointed in our returning flight, which has left a lasting impression preventing us from ever choosing to fly this particular airline again.

    We boarded our flight on July 4 at 7am from Nadi, Fiji heading to SFO (Flight # 872) and all was well for the most part. We were served breakfast into the first 90 minutes of the flight and the fare was tolerable. Little did we know that it would be the most sustenance we will get for the next 8.5-hours.

    Two hours prior to landing in SFO, we were getting hungry and then saw the meal trays heading to the front of the aircraft while we were eagerly waiting our turn. By the time the trolleys rolled to our row, we were dismayed by the flight attendant’s announcement that it was beef only. Clearly shocked, we inquired about Chicken or even Vegetarian options, we were told that they had already run out of them prior to getting to row 20.

    We were further outraged when the flight attendant insisted on giving us the beef tray even though we (Hindus) do not eat beef. When we explicitly mentioned this fact, she simply removed the beef plates and gave us whatever meager leftover remained that simply included a dinner roll, a single slice of cheese and a sad little salad if it even can be called that.

    For a minute or two, we weren’t sure how to react as people were talking amongst themselves as to how they could run out of meal options. The flight attendants then had the audacity to inform us that it’s not their fault and that the blame lies with the catering company who obviously had made a big blunder. At the end of the day, we are not concerned with the catering company as we are not directly dealing with them, we are dealing with Fiji Airways and the least we can expect is a decent meal.

    Having travelled to many countries with many airlines, we never had to deal with such a situation. It’s unfortunate that most airlines do not fly directly into Fiji unless they are stopping in New Zealand or Australia, hence depriving us of more options when flying. Most airlines flying within the US even charge people for food but at least they have options and enough meals for everyone on board should they wish to purchase. Not only that, they encourage people to bring their own meals should they wish to have it. We didn’t even have that consideration with Fiji Airways as they only allow for a 7.5 kg carryon limit, which can hardly comprise of anything other than perhaps excess luggage, which may typically not fit in the check-in baggage. Had we known that we wouldn’t be offered a meal of our choice, we would have made our own arrangements, though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why they charge so much for international airline tickets yet can’t seem to provide a couple of meal options or better yet backups.

    Anyway, we endured through the last 2 hours of the flight somehow eager to get home. Again, not knowing what other surprise awaited us when we landed and got to the baggage carousel. Once we cleared immigration, we proceeded to pick up our bags but only got 2 of the 4 bags we checked in. We patiently waited for the rest of our bags for 30 more minutes until we came across other disgruntled passengers who were suffering from the same fate as us. We tried to look for a Fiji Airline Representative that could inform us of what was happening in the background with the bags but alas no one was to be found.

    After another 20 minutes of pacing and waiting, some passengers finally lost their patience and approached the Cathay Pacific counter to page a Fiji Airway’s Representative. After an hour of not receiving our bags, suddenly we saw the carousel with those bags in question on them. Throughout this one-hour period, passengers from 2 other airlines had come and gone with their bags. Its not that we expect our bags to be on the belt and cannot tolerate any delay but some communication from the airline would be much appreciated. In this particular case, there was no communication whatsoever until we contacted someone, and even then before they were able to get there, the baggage issue had been resolved.

    While there are always minor issues that we can ignore and get passed, the two aforementioned issues are too big to ignore and as a result, my family and I will not be traveling with Fiji Airways ever again. In addition, I will be encouraging all my family and friends to not waste their precious time and money on an airline that can’t be bothered with the basic needs of their passengers.

    Before writing this review, I visited 12 other websites, just within the first 2 pages of Google search that contained some similar and some different complaints about Fiji Airways. This goes to show that people are very dissatisfied with their experiences and that’s a lot of customers to ignore for Fiji Airways. What’s appalling is that no one from Fiji Airways has ever tried to contact these past passengers to resolve their issues and even if they did then they had never reached a satisfactory resolution. My review is probably going to fall on deaf ears too but I find it important to let others know of my experience so that you can avoid the same mess. There are many other airlines to consider when flying and in order to keep their clientele, airlines need to step up to the competition. Fiji Airways, you certainly have a long way to go!

  42. With all due respect, this article doesn’t reflect understanding on how miles / upgrades work (for all airlines, not just Fiji).

    Airlines class inventory (e.g. business) is divided into a number of coded fare classes*, some reflecting deep discounts (I), full fare(J), or award (R) with different booking rules, but all for the same class of service (in this case business, but same goes with First or Economy). Over time, a specific flight, may change its ratio (i.e. offer more R / award tickets), but at no point do airlines simply release their unsold inventory as R, or downgrade to cheaper. This is precisely why last-minute tickets are so expensive, when you think it would be cheaper — all of the cheap fare classes (e.g. I) have been booked / expired, and only full fare (J) are left.

    So what happened here is that you miles-paid Alaska for a ticket where only certain flights had R (business award) inventory — therefore Alaska had to charge you business miles for the full ticket, since some of your flights were in R. On Fiji’s side, they just didn’t release more R inventory for the flight in question (or the inventory was taken by someone else), so there wasn’t a “seat” (in the fare code sense) to upgrade you to.

    All of this is pretty complex, so I wouldn’t blame anyone for being confused, but that doesn’t mean it’s Fiji’s fault, Alaska’s fault or the ground staff. Simply put, you made a bet that R-inventory would open up, and you lost. Good luck next time.

    ***codes differ for each airline — just providing examples

    1. Hi, Matt

      There’s any amount of ways to describe this and “the ways things work”. But, when you’re squashed in the back of coach class for 10 hours, while holding a ticket that cost me however many miles to fly in business class, and seeing eight empty seats in business class, none of which neither I nor anyone else on the plane was allowed to sit in, my view was far from calmly thinking “well, don’t be upset, that’s the way things work – you pay for business class, they have business class seats empty, but you fly coach class”.

      It absolutely is Fiji Airways’ “fault”. I understand inventory management very well indeed, having lived that life and played that game myself for some years. When an airline ends up with empty seats after close-off and shortly prior to departure, they shouldn’t and generally don’t leave them empty. They fill them with “R class” or any other letter of the alphabet class passengers entitled to them. Shame on Fiji Airlines for not doing so, neither for me, nor for elite frequent fliers, or any other potentially upgradable category of passengers on the flight.

        1. So, just to be clear, hoping to fly in the business class seat that I paid for – the business class seat that was empty with no-one occupying it – is an unfair expression of undeserved entitlement?

  43. Everone should travel to Fiji with Fiji Airlines at least once in their lives … to ensure they’re never tempted to do either again.

  44. I am surprised….Fiji, one of my favorite countries…
    I understand Fiji Time.. and Bula etc….and I used to love it there (over 30 times)
    but , but, but … who needs it?

  45. “With all due respect” (strange how that phrase never seems to have any respect following) this article & the comments appear to fairly well understand how airline bookings and air miles work.

    In this case it’s very simple – IF an airline has no intention of honouring a paid for business seat (as we know, bought with miles) THEN they have no business charging a business rate of air miles for coach seats.

    I’m really not sure how anyone can defend this practice – either the airline is incompetent and is overcharging by refusing to honour the tickets they’ve [mis]sold, or they’re cheating their air miles customers by selling coach seats at a business rate to anyone that presumes business means business.

  46. The wonderful thing about comments sections is that there are always people happy to step up to defend the indefensible. As I started in 2016 and headed toward the present, I was waiting when the word “privilege” would show up. An artifact of 2019-2020. Really exceeded my expectations. Expecting to receive what you paid for (regardless of cash or miles) is now considered a form of privilege.

    I once flew on ANZ through Nadi and had given thought to spending a few days in Fiji with my Wife.
    However a quick google search mentioned Fire Coral, Sea Snakes, Lionfish, Stonefish, Scorpionfish, Triggerfish, Cone shells, Crown of Thorns, Sea Kraits, Sharks, Jellyfish, Centipedes, Cane Toads, Hepatitis, Measles, Yellow Fever, Dengue, Zila, and unsafe water. I decided discretion was the better part of valor …

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