Tonga to Apia, Samoa via Fiji with Air Fiji aka Air MESS
The plan today was to fly from Tonga to Samoa via Nadi, Fiji. There was a nice route with a 90 minute connection in Nadi, and I booked all of this before I ever learnt that Fiji Airways and I were soon to enter into an abusive relationship. The first week of this trip I’d received an email from Expedia. It seems Fiji Airways had decided to “retime” the onward connection to Samoa, and I would now have a 5.5 hour connection in Nadi. Instead of leaving at approximately 530pm we would now leave at 11pm and arrive at 230am. Ugh, not desirable at all, but if that was the worst drama I’d have this trip I’m not going to complain.
Unfortunately, three days before the flight, just after I got out of the shower on the Emirates A380, I checked my phone and there was an email. From Fiji Airways. I figured it was something about my Tuvalu refund.
Oh no, not at all. They had “retimed” my flight once again, and it was now going to leave a further 14 hours later – the NEXT DAY. Meaning I’d get stranded overnight in Fiji. UGH. There goes my first day in Samoa. Ok, breathe deeply. Water under the bridge. This is Fiji Airways. At least you get a nice relaxing nice in Fiji now. At least you won’t land in Samoa at 230am. Try and stay positive.
So I did.
Got to the airport, and check-in for Tonga took nearly 45 minutes. The ground handling company was clearly moving on island time, and there was a reasonable breeze in the terminal, so it wasn’t too bad. I asked about the exit row. She disappeared for about 10 minutes to “see if it is possible.” She came back, and without a word gave me a non exit row seat. I asked again. “No, not possible.” That was it.
Based on the flights departure board you’d think they’d be bored and looking for something to do:
Your medium sized wood carvings are ok for carry on, but your wooden knives are not…no matter which way you point them!
Shot of the bustling Nuku’Alofa airport from the passenger dropoff area:
It was a walk to the plane gate, and notice all the friends and relatives waving goodbye to us:
Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever boarded a plane through the rear. It was terrifying.
…but I still managed a smile.
Upon boarding, I asked the flight attendant if by chance the exit rows remained open, I could sit there when the door is closed. “Yes yes, of course.”
Fiji Airways flight 212
Nuku’alofa, Tonga (TBU) to Nadi, Fiji (NAN)
Depart 15:45, Arrive 17:15, Flight Time 1:30
Boeing 737-800, Registration DQ-FJG, Manufactured 1999, Seat 23D
I stalked the exit rows. I actually sat in 23D to deter people from getting the same idea. Nobody showed up. Score! Now really, how much work would it have been for the check-in agent to actually assign me this seat? Clearly too much. I had the entire row to myself!
In the approximately 10 days I’d been away, Fiji had also apparently gotten quite serious about Ebola:
Despite only being a 90 minute flight, Fiji Airways offered a small snack. Another scary sandwich slathered in mayo and mystery meat, and today there was a pasta salad as well. No thanks, not going to risk it. Fortunately it was biscuits and bitter to the rescue again!
This was my third visit to Fiji this trip now, and I knew the drill. I even knew exactly how much cash to withdraw from the ATM to get me back and forth to the hotel in a taxi. I’d asked Fiji Airways about the possibility of a hotel since it was their fault, and they offered me something called the “Pleasant Inn” near the airport. Yes, meaning no beach, no nothing. Couldn’t find it anywhere online. I suspected the Pleasant Inn was likely to be anything but pleasant. I opted to prevent further ruination of my vacation, and coughed up some points to stay at the Sheraton.
Clearly, unlike Fiji Airways, they were happy to see me:
Had a nice dinner on the beach, relaxed, and generally made the most of a less than idea situation. I mean, with a view like this out my hotel room, how bad could it be?
The next morning, slept in a bit, and then relaxed by the pool:
Soon, it was time to head back to the airport and renew my love affair with Fiji Airways.
Parked next to the security fence was a KC-135 refueling aircraft. Not exactly sure it was doing there. Was it refueling Obama on the way back from the G20 in Brisbane? Something to do with keeping the Ruskis in check since they’d deployed ships off Australia? Who knows…
Check-in with FIji Airways was painless, and the agent informed me they’d changed the aircraft from an ATR-72 to a 737. Wait, does this mean it has business class? Yes. Is it available? Yes. Can I upgrade? Yes. I was afraid to ask the price by did anyways…it was a very reasonable approximately $80 US and I l jumped on it. Sure it was only a two hour flight, but after all the Fiji Airways drama I was over it. I asked them to comp it in exchange for stranding me overnight. No dice. Oh well…at least I could still use the lounge.
Security and immigration were a breeze, and soon I was at the lounge:
A minor flood? ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME? Of course not, it’s Fiji Airways! I was hungry, and went to try and find a Fiji Airways agent. This guy looked…helpful:
I didn’t have the heart to tell him there’s nothing to uphold. It’s an absolutely nightmare. Eventually he found a FIji Airways representative for me, and they agreed that as a business class passenger it was disappointing there was no lounge. Yes, they would get me a voucher to get something to eat. Just wait here. Nearly 30 minutes later, they finally showed up. Look what they had for me…
Not just any chocolate cake like they’d pumped me full of in Suva, but WICKED chocolate cake. Wicked seemed to be a good term to describe anything and everything associated with Fiji Airways. I ate it. It was not nearly as good as the non-wicked cake in Suva. Case closed.
Soon, we were ready to board.
Fiji Airways flight 255
Nadi, Fiji (NAN) to Apia, Samoa (APW)
Depart 13:35, Arrive 16:25, Flight Time 1:50
Boeing 737-800, Registration DQ-FJH, Manufactured 1999, Seat 2A
The seats were quite nice for a shorthaul:
So, I got comfortable. We were only booked to 4 of 8 seats, which was extra nice:
Cool lemongrass scented towels and bubbles. Wait, this is Fiji Airways? It’s far too nice!
Legroom shot. It was quite good:
Printed menus for a 90 minute flight? Who are you and what have you done with Fiji Airways!!!
The starters…well they were really sad. Took one very disappointing bite and passed on the rest.
I never eat fish on a plane. Never. The flight attendant insisted. She told me it was delicious. So…I risked it…and she was right. I might have asked for seconds. Still delicious.
Soon we were approaching Samoa:
Ominous clouds for our arrival:
At baggage claim. Can I buy a vowel? Vanna…can I have an A please? There are SIX As….hahahahah.
Fiji Airways really tried to redeem themselves this flight with the onboard product. Too bad for them everything else related to this flight was a disaster, and let’s not even talk about my previous experiences with them. There’s no way I’d book them again if there was any other mildly reasonable choice…which unfortunately there won’t be when it’s finally time to go back to Tuvalu.
Hotel transfer was waiting when I got out of passport control, and soon it was off to enjoy my remaining time in Samoa.