Fiji Airways sets Chef’s Table

Travellers can savour some of the "elevated" Fijian dishes at Fiji Airway's newest culinary concept, JO-ANNE HUI-MILLER writes.

FIJI Airways is set to launch Chef’s Table, a new fine-dining experience at its premier lounge at Nadi International Airport, where guests can literally enjoy a taste of the local culture before take-off.

“It’s us sharing Fiji with the world. As an airline, our purpose statement is that we fly for Fiji. That means more than just flights for us. It is [about] connecting our culture and destination with the world,” Fiji Airways Chief Marketing and Sales Officer Akuila Batiweti told travelBulletin at the Fiji Tourism Exchange this week.

“This is something that you can’t get anywhere else in the world.”

When Chef’s Table officially launches this month, guests will be invited to pre-book their meal via email before check-in. Lunch or dinner sessions will be enjoyed in a private dining room with up to 10 guests at the premier lounge at Nadi, featuring a four-course meal that showcases local dishes, such as wild caught ocean water prawns, flame grilled tenderloin, housemade curry leaf and cardamon ice cream and plenty more.

“This is a step above the buffet meals offered at the lounge. It is an elevated Fijian dining experience where each dish tells a story celebrating our rich history and cultural diversity,” said Batiweti.

“The best local seasonal ingredients and experiences are the heroes, with each course presented by our talented premier lounge chefs. The Chef’s Table is our interpretation of the Fijian story told through food.”

In other product development news, Batiweti revealed that Fiji Airways is also on the way to launching a new stopover program in collaboration with Tourism Fiji. Due to the Fijian Government’s 72-hour tax-free transit program, travellers are not required to pay departure taxes during stopovers, giving Fiji Airways the opportunity to elevate the customer experience. Soon to be launched, the program will offer tourists a full range of activities in Fiji to enjoy, whether they are transiting for two or 24 hours.

The past year has been a successful one for Fiji Airways, said Batiweti. In 2023, the airline reached a new record of more than 2.1 million passengers, representing 57% growth over 2022. Overall network growth for 2023 versus 2022 was 47%. Out of Australia, it was 21% and from New Zealand, it experienced 64% growth. Alterady, 2024 is projected to be more than 9.5% ahead of 2023.

External factors have also presented some challenges for Fiji Airways in the last 12 months, from the rising fuel prices influenced by the events in the Ukraine and the Middle East, to increased inflation and competition from affordable destinations such as Bali, Thailand and Hawaii.

“However, we see opportunities on the horizon. Some of these include being more cost efficient and exploring innovations that reduce the cost of doing business and improve productivity. We are constantly studying the market to determine airfares on all routes and benchmarking against our competitors in the region to ensure we are maximizing revenue,” said Batiweti.

But the long-term, optimal solution to tackling those challenges is through network growth and securing previously untapped markets, Batiweti said.

“There are many exciting opportunities available throughout our entire network. These are part of ongoing market research and we look forward to sharing the good news when decisions have been made,” he teased.

Last year, two A350s joined the Fiji Airways fleet, which have since performed well with Australian travellers. At the moment, demand for A350s is “through the roof”, but the airline is currently undergoing a fleet review and looking for opportunities to bring on other new craft.

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