Daytrip to Funafuti for lunch on Air Fiji…maybe!
Up nice and early once again, for what was becoming the all-too-familiar routine of flying to Suva in order to catch the flight to Funafuti. No drama with the taxi, and left my bags in the room at the Sheraton since it was just going to be a day trip.
Got to Nadi, and chatted with the counter agent. Yes, he had my reservation, and yes, I was on the 8:45 flight to Funafuti. However, he was “unable” to see what time they had scheduled the second return flight for, so I had no idea how many hours I’d get to spend in Tuvalu. Anyways, I’d come all this distance, I was going to get there!
Fiji Airways Flight 7
Nadi, Fiji (NAN) to Suva, Fiji (SUV)
Depart 7:30, Arrive 8:00, Flight Time 30 minutes
Aerospatiale ATR 42-500, Registration DQ-PSB Manufactured 1997, Seat 6F
Another packed flight to Suva, but right on time, and actually arrived a few minutes before schedule. No checked bags, so went straight out into arrivals and found the Air Fiji check-in desk to check in for the continuation to Funafuti.
Well…that’s funny…why is there nobody at the check in counter 45 minutes before the flight?
After a few minutes, an agent came out, and said…”oh, didn’t anybody call you? The flight has been delayed until 4pm today.” Um no, wait, surely there must be a misunderstanding. I’m on the first flight this morning, and I’ll be taking the later flight back. “Oh there is only one flight today. They combined both flights onto a bigger ATR-72 and it will be going at 4pm this afternoon.”
YOU. MUST. BE. KIDDING.
After all the times I called, all the assurances I’d received, nobody bothered to contact me and tell me the plans had changed. On top of assurances there would be two flights, on top of things seeming fine at check-in in Nadi, they had made this decision the night before. So many opportunities to let me know. But no, they had to fly me back to Suva first, and then tell me. Amazing. Well, it looked like I would have a 60 minute turnaround in Funafuti anyways, and the airport is so small that there was a good chance I could get my passport stamp, leave the airport for 15 minutes and see a bit of the town, then turn right around.
The other good news, is the ATR-72 would then come back and do the last Suva-Nadi flight late at night, so I could even get back to Nadi around midnight. Ugh. I guess it’s worth it.
Well, while you wait eight hours for your flight, may we provide you the Suva Special Delayed Passenger meal of chocolate cake and Diet Coke?
After an hour of sitting and eating cake, decided to head up to the counter. With an 8 hour delay I figured they might spring for a hotel or something for me to rest at for a few hours. Got to the counter, where a group of Chinese tourists were entertaining themselves by stepping on the scale and seeing who weight more than their baggage. They were hugely entertained by this for some reason.
Got to the counter to ask about a hotel. “Oh, there is some more news. The ATR pilots will not be rested enough, so will not be flying back to Nadi tonight. But don’t worry, whenever you land we will arrange a shared bus back to Nadi.” Um, what time are we expected back in Suva? “Around 11pm, maybe 11:30.” Isn’t it three hours back to Nadi? “Maybe 10 minutes less at that hour. So you’re telling me I get to wait here another 7 hours, you won’t pay for a hotel, then I get to fly to Tuvalu for a 15 minute stop, come back here, take the bus, and if I’m lucky I’ll be in bed by 3:30am when I just got up at 5am.
As I looked down to ponder my fate, the biggest cockroach I’ve ever seen scurried by. I’d place it at around 4.5-5 cm in length. It summed up my feelings towards Fiji Airways perfectly at this point:
Needless to say, I cut my losses. The Fiji-Tuvalu ticket alone was nearly $1000 (there are no through fares available) and it just felt like a waste. Purchased in advance it’s about $650, and who knows if I start planning another attempt a year out maybe I can even get it with miles.
I decided to say to hell with it, and head back to Nadi after being promised despite two Nadi-Suva roundtrips I would get a full refund.
Fiji Airways Flight 10
Suva, Fiji (SUV) to Nadi, Fiji (NAN)
Depart 10:50, Arrive 11:20, Flight Time 30 minutes
Aerospatiale ATR 42-500, Registration DQ-PSB Manufactured 1997, Seat 11F
I paged through the Fiji Airways magazine. The President of Fiji Link had a very nice article about how their new ATR would improve things including reliability. PSYCH! JUST KIDDING. Shaenaz will be getting a letter from me, telling me her staff are crazy friendly and do their best to help despite being given nothing to work with. They also need a huge course in communication. Maybe I’ll offer some consulting services in exchange for a trip to Tuvalu…
Back to Nadi, where I went straight to the Fiji Airways ticketing office, and after about 30 minutes they had processed a full refund. Of course, there’s no sign of it on my credit card yet, but I have a refund number and a promise. I mean, Fiji Airways always keeps its promises so I have absolutely no doubt things will be just peachy…
Decided to cab it straight from the airport to Denarau Port, and grab lunch. At least I had a relaxing afternoon, and weather was great:
Lunch was followed up by pool time, and another gorgeous Fiji sunset. One note to anyone booking SPG stays in Fiji: the views of sunset from the Westin are meh, but the Sheraton’s pool area has amazing sunsets:
Another unexpected bonus was another dinner in Fiji. The incredibly friendly waitress at Chime Bar at the Sheraton shared with me a great Fijian restaurant at the Port, so I headed to Nandina Fijian to give it a try for dinner. How can a restaurant with a drink called the “Baby Maker’ be bad? It’s almost as promising as the “Naughty and Pregnant” I had in St Kitts this summer.
Starter of Kokoda, a kind of FIjian ceviche of raw fish in coconut broth. It was absolutely amazing:
Since I’ve bored everyone with a thousand sunsets, here’s a moonrise during dinner:
Main course of octopus in a coconut curry broth. Absolutely amazing, with huge amounts of octopus:
Trio of deserts, bananas in fijian rum, a chocolate cake, and vanilla ice cream. How could you go wrong!
Up early the next morning to catch the flight to Vanuatu. Wait, Vanuatu? Why am I going to Vanuatu? I’ve already been there…I’m supposed to be going to the Solomon Islands.
Stay tuned for Chapter Three in the continuing saga of AIR MESS aka AIR MAYBE aka Air Pacific aka Air Pathetic aka Fiji Airways!
Walking to the check-out area, one last Fiji beach shot. The beach chapel at the Sheraton:
Off to Nadi Airport!
I took the LAX-NAN-AKL flight a couple of months before they changed the name to Fiji Air, and oh! Boy! Even check in at LAX works on island time, slow as hell!! Food was horrible, but at least i arrived in one piece to Auckland, and surprisingly even if i was flying in a really cheap fare (500dlls a one way ticket, Air NZ was double) 100% of my miles ended in my AA account, but never again!! The horror stories like yours are too many!