Fiji Airways and the pleasures of small, friendly, unhurried flights
Catching flights in Fiji works this way. You sit on the verandah with a cool drink. It is the day of travel. You ask you host, or the hotel, when you should be ready. They give you an approximate time, and then someone drives you off to the airport at a leisurely pace and everything gradually happens, more or less on time, if anyone is actually keeping time.
Confession: I have a weakness for the unhurried, gracious, friendly and totally laid back south Pacific isles, whether Melanesian, Polynesian, or Francophone or Anglophone.
Yes. Clouds have blotted out the sun at times, and still do, both from natural and ‘national’ calamities.
But when Fiji Airways announced twice weekly flights between Sydney and Suva from next May, did the good memories come back. Suva is the capital. It’s where many business and most government and NGO travellers would be headed, rather than Nadi, which is the portal for most leisure visits.
These two towns are worlds apart in some respects. If you fly toward Nadi in daylight it is like approaching a green continent, rather than an island, and if you fly on to Suva, it’s a very short hop over the jungle covered ranges to the somewhat wetter side of Fiji’s largest island Viti Levu. As a kid, the freighters I sailed on usually went to Suva, but the drive around the island was something of an epic, with dirt roads, small villages, and dubious bridges.
Much later on I did the flight a few times in a low wing Hawker Siddeley HS748 turbo-prop, which came a distant second in 50s and 60s sales competitions to Fokker Friendships but also had big oval windows even better than those on the Dreamliners. And seats twice as large too. The Suva runway was nowhere near jet standard, although maybe a Comet IV might have made it out as well as in, since that jet had no problems using Melbourne’s Essendon airport.
What is delightful about the Suva-Sydney flights announcement is that it is in a Boeing 737-700 which is listed as having only 118 seats, eight in business class. That’s spacious. Hands up anyone who has recently flown in a two class 737-700 with less than about 138 seats in recent years? And it is the only 737-700 in the Fiji Airways fleet, which is best known these days for the Airbus A330s it flies to Nadi.
The Fiji Airways announcement makes much of improved connectivity in Suva for flights to places like Apia. Which is good. But connectivity in Fiji works like this. You sit on the verandah with a cool drink. It is the day of travel. You ask you host, or the hotel, when you should be ready. They give you an approximate time, and then someone drives you off to the airport at a leisurely pace and everything gradually happens, more or less on time, if anyone is actually keeping time.
The flight to or from Sydney is in a time machine. One that goes from a hurried time to an unhurried time, or vice versa.
Something rare, and pleasurable.
Just for the record. Here is the Sydney-Suva Fiji Airways 737-700, courtesy of Noel Jones in Wikipedia Commons.