Comparing Fiji Airways with Virgin Australia (formerly Air Pacific and Pacific Blue)
Recently Peceli and I travelled to Fiji and Tonga which involved five flights – first Fiji Airways from Melbourne to Nadi, Fiji, then six days later Fiji Airiways from Nadi to Nausori to connect with the Fiji Airways flight to Tonga. A week later we returned to Australia by Virgin Australia from Tonga to Auckland then transferred to a flight to Melbourne. So I felt I was in a position to compare the two airlines.
Firstly the airports: A real problem at Tullamarine Melbourne is the distance to walk to the gate for departure to Fiji. Traipsing through those duty free shopping areas. It’s way too long for people who get tired easily or can only walk with difficulty. I had a walking stick because of the arthritis. Some people ask for a wheelchair but we didn’t think it necessary but actually it would have helped. The flight was very good – new brand logo on the plane, on the uniforms of the staff and the usual nice manner in giving ups free fruit drinks, coffee etc. and food, though the roll with chicken (girls next to me said it was fish or bacon!) coleslaw, Scotch biscuit, etc. wasn’t very good. A parcel of roti and vegetable curry would have been nicer with a tub of tropical fruit. This was a midnight flight by the way.
At Nadi we realized that again walking was a problem but soon a member of staff with a wheelchair took over and quickly got us though the walk, the immigration, the baggage collect. Very good service.
The second flight was beautiful – only half an hour and we could view the mountains of Viti Levu then the Rewa river before touchdown. The Fiji Sun newspapers were given out to read and then collected. I said ‘Oh are they rubbish then?’ but my comment wasn’t really noticed.
At Nausori airport there was no problem about walking, but when it was announced that the plane to Tonga would be delayed two hours we weren’t going to just sit around, so found taxi with a Fijian driver and we had a delightful drive to Davuilevu, to Dilkusha, to Navuso village then a fine curry dinner at the end of Nausori town. We were blessed to have that extra time to do some nostalgia and noticing the changes.
The Fiji Airways flight to Tonga was again excellent apart from the Fiji Sun handed out again and which I don’t like because of its bias – it actually had the new Constitution in Fijian in it - and again the roll with chicken which isn’t really the best kind of afternoon snack. The plane I think was the Labasa plane – a 50 or 60 seater – and it flew low enough to see Totoya and some of the Lau islands, and then we had a beautiful view over Tongatapu, the patchwork pattern of farms, the little villages, the coconut plantations. It only took one hour ten minutes to Tonga from Nausori!
The airport is small and we were a bit tired but joyful to meet our son Andrew and grand-daughter Linlay then drive to Nukualofa.
Seven days later we left Tonga to return to Melbourne – this time using Virgin Australia planes with a brief stopover at Auckland. Because check-in was midnight we really hadn’t slept so I certainly was tired and uncomfortable on this flight. We were offered free tea, coffee, water, and had to buy a chunky sandwich with a hint of chicken and a lot of green leaves, rocket I think – for $10. It took over two hours to Auckland, and then the wheelchair we had ordered didn’t eventuate at first as there were too many people wanting one. Anyway a Fiji Indian girl (from Taveuni) did help us then but left us at the food stalls where I only had time to buy a bottle of Fanta and crispy chips. We walked more and more – what a long way to transfers!
The next plane trip took four hours ten minutes to Melbourne which I reckon was too slow for flying over ‘the ditch’. It was uncomfortable and I couldn’t sleep, so was anxious to get to Melbourne quickly. At last we rolled into place for arrival, and people stood up to get their carry-on bags from the lockers, but.... the front door had jammed and we had to wait fifteen minutes for the engineer to come. Panic buttons for me – the claustrophobia kicked in and I just grabbed a brochure to read as we waited, taking deep breaths. Then at last we were out of prison and realized we would have to walk a very long distance once again. I found a wheelchair, and that helped until we got to picking up the bags. No Virgin Australia staff in sight at Melbourne airport. No – one seemed to bother to help passengers. It took a long time in two queues because we had peeled yams in a box . At last we got out into the Melbourne cool air to be greeted by our eldest son and his wife. Both of us exhausted. We won’t do two trips in one day with Virgin again!