YP6370 From Germany, joined Apr 2000, 203 posts, RR: 0 Posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 7630 times:
This trip was the best and on the same time one of the worst trips I ever had.
It was truly an adventure flying through the so-called "Friendly Islands" from Nuku'alofa/Tongatapu to Vava'u in the north of Tonga.
I actually booked this flight because a Dc-3 was indicated in the schedule and I really wanted to be on that plane...
07. May 2005
Flight: PVL 801
Tongatapu to Vava'u
Scheduled departure: 13:40
Scheduled arrival: 14:15
Plane: Convair 580
I arrived at Fua'amotu International Airport on time with Polynesian Airlines Flight 875 from Apia which made a stop in Tonga on its way to Sydney.
After clearing immigration and customs I was looking around for a Peau Vava'u counter to pick up my ticket. As Nuku'alofa Airport is not that big I could finish my search after a couple minutes...resulting in asking a friendly staff memeber for it
Answer: You have to go to the domestic terminal!
Me: ??!!! Domestic Terminal? In Tonga?
Indeed they had 2 Terminals for about 5 flights a day and most amazing for me: To go from the international terminal to the domestic you had to take a taxi...
After a 5 minutes taxi ride I finally got my ticket at the Peau Vava'u Air office and the friendly lady in there informed me that the departure would be delayed.
As I had plenty of time I walked around the terminal to spot a big surprise: No Dc-3 on the tarmac!!! But a Convair 580 of Air Chathams operated by Reef Air operated for Peau Vava'u Air (that should be the exact definition )
Finally the check-in desk (the only one) opened and I presented my ticket and my luggage.
My backpack was instantly weighed and so was my hand-luggage and than I had to go on the scale myself Now I truly arrived in the good old early air travel years
I received seat 3A and sat down to wait again...
More and more passengers arrived. All packed with large suitcases, boxes and bags. They all must have exceeded the 10kg baggage allowance but in Polynesia they don't care much about such rules and I did not see anyone paying for excess luggage.
Loadfactor on this flight: 100%
The domestic terminal again
...seconds before departure...
The only flight attendant performed the safety instructions without the loud speaker. After takeoff she handed out menu cards...somehow modern times seemed to have arrived in Tonga as well...you had to pay for drinks and snacks. She began with the service in the rear and after a while she came to my row and I ordered a coke for 1,50 EUR. She came back with a 0,5l Pepsi bottle. As I opened it the captain announced the descend into Vava'u...
After landing I asked the f/a for a safety card. Unfortunately she could not give me one. But to be sure she went off to ask the pilot about it. No chance this time but the pilot offered to send me one by email
I took this oportunity to ask if I would have the Dc-3 on my return flight. He answered that the Dc-3 is not flying on that route because they are waiting for propeller parts from New Zealand... Damn!!
So no Dc-3 on my return but another ride on the Convair...not that bad...
I stayed just for a couple of days (unfortunatly). Back in Germany I really miss the beautiful scenery and the nice temperature
10. May 2005
Flight: PVL 822
Vava'u to Tongatapu
Scheduled departure: n/a
Scheduled arrival: n/a
Plane: Convair 580
The shuttle bus dropped me off at 12, one hour before my scheduled departure. An airport employee told me that the plane would not depart Tongatapu before 3pm...
That's Tonga! So I had at least 3,5 hours before check-in. I just layed down on a bench and listened to some music as there was nothing else to do.
By the way: The "Security Search ahead" sign is just a joke
Check-in commenced around 3.30pm and I again presented my ticket and luggage. The check-in agent looked up and asked: Did you reconfirm your ticket yesterday?
My reply: No of course not?!
He said he could not give me a boarding pass but he could put me on the waiting/stand-by list...
Wow great...I told me that I have international connecting flights afterwards and I saw on his passenger list that 48 passengers were booked. No chance. I had to come back after everyone checked-in.
I finally got the last seat available at 4pm just before boarding began. The flight was again full.
Just a few minutes before arrival the plane was shaken by strong winds and I also saw lightning besides the plane. It now felt like a rollercoaster I really enjoyed that feeling...
After arrival I asked the f/a (same as on the inbound flight) again if she had a safety card for me. She answered that she had forgotten to take a spare one with her but if I am still interested in the Dc-3 I could come with her.
Of course I wanted to see the Dc-3! And so I walked with her to the hangar...
The plane in the last picture is the Beech Bonanza of HRH Crown Prince Tupouto'a of Tonga.
All in all it was of course a more nice than bad experience although I really had fear not to be allowed boarding on my return flight which would have resulted in rebooking my TBU-AKL-SYD flights.
My full travel itinery was FRA-KUL-SYD-AKL-APW-TBU-VAV-TBU-AKL-SYD and I have flown on MH, EK, PH, PVL, NZ. Maybe I will post reports of my other flights later...
Comments would be appreciated
YP6370 From Germany, joined Apr 2000, 203 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 13 hours ago) and read 7563 times:
The islands of the Kingdom of Tonga are called the friendly islands.
Tonga is in the south pacific between Samoa and Fiji about 1200mi NE from Auckland. Its capital is Nuku'alofa on Tongatapu Island. 168 other islands are in the kingdom which has a population of about 110.000
UK_Dispatcher From United Arab Emirates, joined Dec 2001, 2599 posts, RR: 28
Reply 3, posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 7488 times:
Oh my god! What can I say. I'd be gutted if the DC-3 was replaced by something offensive like an ATR-42, but a CV580?! I'd love to fly aboard one of those. It's a pity you didn't get the DC-3 if thats what you wanted. The ideal combination for me would have been the CV580 outbound and the DC-3 inbound!
YP6370 From Germany, joined Apr 2000, 203 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (10 years 1 month 3 weeks 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 7092 times:
I did not just visit Tonga on my holidays. I spent 4 weeks in Australia and couple of days in New Zealand. From there it's not very expensive. I think I paid about 150 EUR for AKL-APW, 110 EUR for APW-TBU and 200 EUR for TBU-AKL-SYD (all one way flights with Polynesian Airlines and Air New Zealand).
As there are no direct flights from Europe you have to fly via SYD, AKL or HNL/APW.
The ticket TBU-VAV-TBU was 360 TOP which is around 150 EUR.
I booked over the internet in advance but I think the locals or if you book it there it should be a lot cheaper as I doubt many locals could afford such a high fare.
Just wanted to add something for the safety cards collectors:
I did not get a card from the Convair (which was an Air Chathams card) but the really nice flight attendant gave me an original Peau Vava'u Dc-3 card in the hangar
I will never forget these great days in Tonga and Samoa and I will definitely try to get there for a longer stay in the future!