Api Talemaitoga flies NZ53 from Fiji to NZ

The Plane:

Boeing 777-200. This was supposed to be the bigger 777-300 but I guess that Air NZ, being a nimble airline, can afford to slightly downsize the aircraft depending on the loading.

Class: Business Premier — thanks to a short-haul recognition upgrade the airline gave me months ago, for being a Gold Elite customer.

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My seat: 5B.

Price: Less than $500 for the return fare. I had bought this ticket during an Air New Zealand "Island fares sale" in December as I knew my sister had organised a family get-together at Easter in Nadi for my dad's 85th birthday.

On time: We left 13 minutes earlier than departure time of 2pm (as everyone had boarded). And we landed an amazing 40 minutes early!

How full: Full in all cabins.

Fellow passengers: Tanned, happy and relaxed fellow New Zealanders. As it was the week after Easter, I could spot several Kiwis reluctantly returning home after spending the long weekend away in tropical temperatures. Most passengers were in shorts and T-shirts (like me) or nice summer wear to reflect the 30C temperature in Nadi that day. There were also a few Fijian nationals.

I love this flight as it always has a very casual, relaxed feel to it; and the Air NZ cabin service is reflective of that ambience.

Entertainment: The usual TV programmes, rugby games, movies and music videos on offer. Plus, the woman in 5A across from me provided much amusement to some of us in the cabin as she was watching the movie, Hacksaw Ridge and involuntarily screamed out several times at apparently scary parts of the movie — startling most of us! She apologised several times and after the fourth scream, announced she was giving up on watching the movie.

Another lady in 6A got into fits of sneezing that seemed to go on for some time. The flight attendant jokingly told her that she would summon the doctor (me) to attend to her if it went on any longer — much to everyone's amusement.

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Service: You don't get named Best Airline by airlineratings.com four years in a row for nothing. Air New Zealand match the casual, holiday feel of this short flight with easy, laidbackand friendly service that is second to none.

Food and drink: I had the venison entree, sweet paprika chicken for my main and kaffir lime and coconut panna cotta with mango and goji berry and macadamia praline to finish. Beautiful! And from take-off to touchdown, I sampled a good amount of quality wines (pinot gris then pinot noir) from the South Island.

Toilets: Clean as!

Airport experience: The newly refurbished Nadi airport terminal is spacious and clean. No queues. It took me two minutes to walk up to the Premium counter, get my boarding pass, then head for the departure gates.

The new Koru Lounge in Nadi is nicely set out, but was packed. The staff ensured a good supply of food and beverages were on offer. I loved the small parcels of roti with a spicy lentil curry filling. The lounge had a good selection of newspapers and magazines, a children's play area, clean toilets and shower facilities. The only downside was the slow internet service — I guess many, like me, were trying to get ahead of the emails before getting back to work the next day.

Final word: I luckily have to do this trip three or four times a year to visit family in Fiji and the flight experience adds to the enjoyment of it all the time.

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